Healthwatch 16: Time to Think about Flu Shots

PARADISE TOWNSHIP -- Winter might not yet be on your mind, but it's what a lot of doctors are thinking about this time of year, as we head into flu season.

We visited Sanofi Pasteur in the Poconos for a look at what goes into making the flu vaccine.

Dr. David Greenberg, head of medical affairs at Sanofi Pasteur in Monroe County, says now is the time for flu shots.

Of the 2,500 people working at the facility in Swiftwater, he says half of them are involved in manufacturing the flu vaccine.

More than 65 million doses are being sent out now nationwide.

Maybe you wait until winter to worry about getting your flu vaccine, but before we get to that we get to enjoy leaves falling and a slight chill in the air.

Dr. Greenberg calls that the indicator.

"Sometimes the flu hits our area as early as October. Sometimes it's not until the end of the year or in the spring. Getting vaccinated now means it's off your to-do list and protects you through the winter season."

Each year, workers at Sanofi formulate a slightly different vaccine for the upcoming season. Flu strains change from year to year, and Sanofi works with the FDA and the CDC to come up with the vaccine they think will work best.

Most are the adult or regular dose, but a special pediatric dose is made here, as is a high dose made for those ages 65 and older, whose immune systems need an extra boost.

This year, Dr. Greenberg says Sanofi manufactured millions of additional flu vaccines following the CDC's recommendation that the nasal flu vaccine wouldn't be a good fit for this year's strain.

In general, Dr. Greenberg says even if you are perfectly healthy and your immune system is good, the flu can be dangerous, and protecting yourself is a good idea.

"It's more about how our bodies respond to the infection itself that leads to hospitalization, complications, pneumonia, even things like heart attacks. And unfortunately, people die from the influenza across all different ages."

Don't take our word for it. As with anything, it's best to call your own doctor to talk about the flu vaccine.

Most physicians offer it, but so do pharmacies, and sometimes even workplaces.