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Preven tion UCLA-MinuteClinic ® Partner for Your Health Vaccination is Best Defense Against Flu October marks the start of flu season, and getting vaccinated ahead of time against the debilitating, and potentially deadly, illness is important to ensure one’s health and that of others, says UCLA infectious-disease expert Matthew Leibowitz, MD. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age 6 months or older get the flu vaccine each year. It is especially important for people most vulnerable to serious complications from the flu. These include older adults, people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women, as well as those who are in close contact with such individuals. much easier over the years. Many pharmacies offer the vaccine, so you don’t even need to go to your doctor,” Dr. Leibowitz notes. In other cases, he says, people choose not to be vaccinated because of certain misconceptions, including the mistaken belief that the vaccine causes the flu. In fact, the flu shot involves a “killed” virus and is thus unable to transmit influenza. Side effects can include moderate soreness or tenderness where the shot is given, as well as low-grade fever or achiness, but these are mild and short-term, he says. But Dr. Leibowitz explains that getting vaccinated is also important for people outside the high-risk groups. “Young, healthy people often think the flu isn’t a big deal. But it can be very serious for anyone,” he says. “And certainly if you have young children, older parents or other vulnerable people in your life, you don’t want to risk passing this on to them.” The flu vaccine comes in several injectable forms and as a nasal spray. Traditional flu vaccines are trivalent (protecting against three influenza strains), but quadrivalent vaccines, which provide protection against four strains, have become more common. Young children who are being vaccinated for the first time are advised to receive two shots four weeks apart to boost the vaccine’s effectiveness. For adults older than 65, a high-dose trivalent shot is recommended to provide stronger protection. Despite the recommendations, about half of the U.S. population fail to protect themselves each year. Often, Dr. Leibowitz says, people who are not receiving regular medical care simply don’t think to get vaccinated. “But it’s gotten UCLA Health and MinuteClinic ® are collaborating to deliver convenient, high-quality services, including flu shots, on a walk-in basis to patients in 15 CVS MinuteClinics ® across Los Angeles County. The clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners, who deliver clinical services using standardized protocols and operate under the supervision of UCLA physicians serving as collaborating physicians. In addition to offering common vaccinations for flu, hepatitis and other preventable diseases, the clinics treat acute problems such as strep throat and ear infections, as well as minor wounds, abrasions, sprains and skin conditions. Care is available for those age 18 months and older. Patients who require care for higher acuity conditions are referred to the most appropriate clinical setting, such as a physician’s office, urgent care or emergency department. is a clinical affiliate of Community Flu-Shot Clinics UCLA Health offers community flu-vaccination clinics during flu season. In any form, Dr. Leibowitz says, the vaccine can confer vital protection for the rest of the season. “Any time you get it — even if it is late in the flu season — is better than not being vaccinated at all,” he notes. For information about upcoming clinics, see page 13 in the Calendar section. Vital Signs Fall 2014 Vol. 64 11