Two clinics to check the flu-shot off your fall to-do list

By Kristy Bleizeffer Sep 6, 2017

Have you scheduled your flu shot? Late September through November is prime time for vaccination against the flu virus for people living in Wyoming. 

Flu season in the Cowboy State typically starts later than other parts of the country, and the flu vaccination gets weaker over time, says Dr. Mark Dowell, an infectious disease doctor at Wyoming Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Infectious Diseases. Waiting to get your shot in fall provides the best window for the strongest protection. 

Who should get a flu shot? 

The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get a flu shot, particularly people who are very young or very old or who may suffer from other chronic illnesses. Talk to your primary care doctor or pediatrician about the best type of vaccination for children under two. It’s important to get vaccinated because we shed the virus before we even know that we are sick.

Pregnant women can and should get the flu shot, Dowell said. And they are also at higher risk if they get the flu because they can put their babies at risk.

How long does immunity last?

The vaccination protects against the flu for about four to six months, but is strongest after two to four weeks. Its effectiveness decreases with time after that first two- to four-week period when your body is building its immunity.

That’s why Dr. Dowell urges people to wait until October to get your shot. Wyoming’s flu season doesn’t generally start until January and may start as late as February, March or April. Therefore, people who get their shots in August or September won’t have the strongest immunity by the time our flu season rolls around.

“As we age, it’s less effective anyway. So if someone who is 65 years old gets a flu shot too early, they may not have any protection when the actual flu season hits,” Dowell said.

Will the shot give me the flu?

No. The flu shot uses a dead virus; it cannot infect you. Symptoms you might experience afterward are caused by your immune response and only about 7 percent of people even get a fever from the shot, Dowell said.  The nasal vaccine does contain a live virus, so only choose this option if you have a fairly good immune system.

Mark Dowell M.D.

Dr. Dowell is board certified in infectious disease and is the medical director of Infectious Disease at Wyoming Medical Center. He is also the Natrona County health officer. He moved to Casper in 1992 and was the first infectious disease specialist in the state of Wyoming. He raised two kids here. He founded and practices at Rocky Mountain Infectious Diseases.

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