Flu spreads easily by coughing, sneezing and close contact with others and is most common from October through March. Pneumonia is also spread by close contact or direct contact with spit or mucus.
Complications from flu or pneumonia can be serious and can even cause death. Every year, thousands of people in the United States die from flu or pneumonia and many more are hospitalized.
Who needs a flu shot?
Flu viruses change every year so everyone older than 6 months should get one flu shot every year. It’s best to get it before the end of October. It takes about two weeks for the shot to fully protect you. Flu shots are safe for pregnant women.
Children ages 6 months to 8 years who get a flu shot for the first time need a second flu shot at least four weeks after the first shot. If they received two or more doses at any time before July 1, 2016, they only need one dose this year.
If you’re very sick, don’t get the shot until you’re well. Tell your doctor if you’ve had a bad reaction to a flu shot, or have the Guillain-Barre Syndrome or an egg allergy, if so, then two egg-free vaccines are available.
Who needs a pneumonia shot?
Pneumonia can cause ear infections, blood poisoning and meningitis, and it can cause lifetime disability such as heart disease, hearing loss, blindness, seizures and paralysis.
It’s important for everyone to get a pneumonia shot because some types of pneumonia are becoming resistant to treatment drugs. Pneumonia shots can be given any time of year.
By age 2, children should have four doses, given at four separate visits. Adults aged 18 to 64 need one shot if they are smokers or have certain health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes or asthma. Adults over 65 need two types of shots, given a year apart.
Where to get shots
Flu shots are available at your doctor, clinics, pharmacies, some work places and local Arkansas Department of Health offices.
Medicaid and most private health insurance will pay for flu and pneumonia shots. They are also free for Medicare beneficiaries if given by a provider who accepts Medicare. Medicare will pay for both pneumonia vaccines if given a year apart.