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Doctors say it’s time to start thinking about getting a flu shot

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A local infections disease expert expects the flu season to be 'normal' this year, but she still believes you should get a flu shot.

Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, Children's Mercy Hospital infectious diseases director, says the flu kills tens of thousands of people every year – especially the elderly and children with compromised immune systems. And yet, only half of you will go out and get a flu shot.

The flu vaccine is developed a year ahead of schedule. Researchers look at the influenza strains going around the rest of the world and develop a vaccine for those strains.

Last year’s flu season was long and drawn out. This year, they believe three of the four flu strains will be the same as last year. But just because you received the flu shot last year doesn’t mean you’re protected this year. The flu vaccine wears off over time, so getting a flu shot every year boosts your immunity.

It is true that the flu vaccine is only fifty percent effective, since a different strain of the flu could show up, a strain not in the flu vaccine. But doctors say getting a flu shot gives you the best chance of staying healthy over the winter.

Dr. Jackson also recommends all pregnant women get vaccinated since it is safe for your fetus and will help protect you from any pregnancy complications. And if you are over the age of 65, there is a higher dose of the flu vaccine that is 25-percent more effective and will give you extra protection this flu season.

"It's not a perfect vaccine but it is a safe vaccine and virtually everyone should be able to be immunized," Dr. Jackson. "It is a clear myth that the flu vaccine will give you the flu. It's an inactivate product so it will not."