Summer is all about barbeques and lazy days at the pool. It's also a good time to start thinking about preparing for flu season, and the vaccinations you or your child may need for the upcoming year, says Carrie Maffeo, a professor of pharmacy at Butler University, who specializes in immunizations.
Maffeo says three guidelines approved this past January by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) are ones to be aware of as you start making your immunization plan.
1) New seasonal flu vaccine.
Even though the news media has stopped talking about H1N1, some pockets of the country continue to see new cases. To help stop further spread, or another outbreak, the 2009 H1N1 strain will be included in the 2010 seasonal flu vaccine.
"This doesn't mean that people who had H1N1 influenza should not get the vaccine; they should get it because it also protects against two additional seasonal flu types, which are contagious and can cause mild to severe illness, even death," said Maffeo.
2) Universal recommendation for seasonal flu vaccination.
For many years, seasonal flu vaccination was recommended for all children ages 6 months to 18 years and for all adults 50 years and older. This left questions for people ages 19-49. The new universal
recommendation includes all people ages 6 months and older.
Typically, flu activity is greatest December thru March. Getting vaccinated in the fall, when the vaccine is released, will provide protection through the spring. Vaccinations can be administered at a doctor's office, pharmacy, or at the county health department.
3) Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV) available for males 9-18 years of age.
The HPV vaccine, known by its brand name as Gardisil, has been available for women ages 9-26 since the summer of 2006. Some strains of HPV cause genital warts, and the presence of HPV increases the risk of developing cancer of the cervix, anus or genitals. The ACIP approved the administration of the HPV vaccine to males ages 9-18 to reduce the likelihood of acquiring genital warts.
Maffeo said the ACIP updates vaccination recommendations every few years so it's important to periodically check in with your health care provider to learn about the new vaccines and any changes in recommendations.
"It's particularly important that parents of adolescents talk to their child's doctor about vaccinations since they don't have the well-child visits younger children have regularly. Adolescents tend to fall behind on vaccinations," she said.