DEAR ABBY: Now is the time of year your readers should get vaccinated against influenza to protect themselves and their loved ones throughout the 2010-11 flu season.
This year, our nation has a new and very simple recommendation to keep our population safe: Everyone 6 months of age and older should get vaccinated! Doing it now will protect you throughout the entire flu season, which can run into the spring months.
The influenza vaccine is safe -- you cannot get influenza from it. In addition to getting vaccinations in doctors' offices, people can receive them in pharmacies, supermarkets, senior centers and schools. Parents should be aware that children younger than 9 years old may need two doses.
Although prevention actions like washing your hands and covering your cough help to prevent transmission of the flu virus, the BEST way to avoid spreading it to others is to be vaccinated every year. -- DEBORAH L. WEXLER, M.D., EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, IMMUNIZATION ACTION COALITION
DEAR DR. WEXLER: I'm pleased to know that this year's flu vaccine is available early, and that there is enough for everyone.
Readers, because influenza is contagious one to two days before symptoms appear, it can be spread to others before we even know we're infected. That's why it's important that everyone be vaccinated not only for our own protection, but also for the protection of family, friends and others in the community who are vulnerable to the serious and sometimes deadly complications of influenza. The good news is, this year there is no need for a separate H1N1 shot because H1N1 protection is included in this year's vaccine.
For more information, contact your health care provider, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov/flu, or call the CDC Info Center at (800) 232-4636.
P.S. Dr. Wexler tells me that if you miss being vaccinated this fall, you can still get vaccinated in January or later because flu season often doesn't peak until February. But dear readers, for my sake, PLEASE do it sooner rather than later so I won't worry about you!
DEAR ABBY: I'm pregnant with my first child. This will be my parents' first grandchild and my fiance's parents' fourth. My mother lives in another state and won't be able to attend the birth, and my fiance and his father are not close.
My problem is my future mother-in-law. When she asked to be present during the birth, I told her no. She became extremely upset when she found out my father will be in the room.
I have nothing against my future mother-in-law; it's just that she's a drama queen, and I'm not comfortable sharing such an emotional event with her. Am I wrong for allowing only one grandparent and not the other? -- MOM-TO-BE IN MESA, ARIZ.
DEAR MOM-TO-BE: The birth of a first baby, while a happy event, can also be scary, challenging and traumatic. It is important that you be as relaxed and comfortable as possible. If you prefer that only your fiance and father be present, then that's how it should be. Any witnesses should be at the invitation of the person doing the delivering, and frankly, for your future mother-in-law to have asked to be present, rather than waiting to be invited, was presumptuous.