Fall is here, the weather is starting to turn cooler, and that also means flu season is drawing closer as well.
The Office of Personnel Management is giving its annual reminder to federal employees to encourage them to get flu shots. OPM says it’s important for protecting federal workers and their families from the flu and that under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program, flu shots can be obtained at little to no cost at many pharmacies and doctors’ offices.
A copy of OPM’s memo is included at the end of this article.
About the Flu Vaccine
The Centers for Disease Control says that all people age 6 months and older with rare exceptions should get a flu shot every year and that doing so is the best way to prevent seasonal flu. The CDC cautions, however, that people should not get a flu shot if they have severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine which might include gelatin, antibiotics, or other ingredients.
The seasonal flu vaccine causes antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Traditional flu vaccines (called “trivalent” vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. There are also flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines). These vaccines protect against the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine and an additional B virus.
The CDC says that a vaccine is needed annually for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection, and second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and updated as needed to keep up with changing flu viruses.
Besides potentially keeping you from getting the flu, the vaccine can also reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization and serves as an important preventative aid for people with chronic health conditions.
Additional information about flu vaccines is available on the CDC website.
October 4, 2018
MEMORANDUM FOR: All Federal Employees
ALEX M. AZAR, II, SECRETARY, U.S. DEPT. OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES
DR. JEFF T.H. PON, DIRECTOR, U.S. OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT
Subject: Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones this Flu Season
You can make a difference by getting your annual flu vaccine. The vaccine works to protect you, your loved ones, and your coworkers from flu and dangerous complications such as pneumonia.
In fact, every year, the flu affects millions of people, costs billions of dollars for hospitalization and treatment, and billions of dollars in sick days and lost productivity. Sadly, each year, thousands or even tens of thousands of people also die from this preventable disease.
The flu vaccine is the best tool to prevent this disease and its potentially serious complications. It is especially important for those at greatest risk for complications from influenza such as young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older, and those with certain medical conditions to be immunized.
Take advantage of your Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) plan and get a flu vaccine at little to no cost. Most FEHB plans cover flu vaccines at pharmacies, retail stores, doctor’s offices, and clinics, and charge no co-pay when using in-network providers. Your workplace may also offer flu vaccines onsite.
We urge you to get your flu vaccine, and encourage your family and coworkers to do the same. Ask your health care professional about other recommended vaccines. In addition to influenza, you can protect yourself against a number of other vaccine-preventable diseases such as shingles, pneumococcal disease, and whooping cough. To learn more, visit vaccines.gov, take the adult vaccination quiz, or find immunization services using the vaccine finder. You can also help #FightFlu on social media.
Thank you for your dedication to public service and for joining our efforts to achieve a healthier workplace and a healthier America.