Thursday, August 23, 2012

Flu Shots, Already?

Well, here we go again. Flu shots are available, and we are starting to stick patients in their deltoid, again. Doesn't it seem early to be shooting the dead influenza vaccine into people's shoulders. All my patients are asking, "are flu shots early this year?" Yes, and we have tons of the vaccine!
I tell them, "no, same time as last year, and the CDC recommends to get them as soon as they are available. Would you like to get one!"
They say, "how long will it take, how much is it, is it going to hurt and will I get sick from the shot?"
I say, "15 to 20 minutes," the price, "it depends, and usually not."
Patients say, "ok, let's get it over with."
I say, "left or right arm. If you flex your muscle, it will probably hurt. If you stay relaxed, it does not hurt as bad. Always use the muscle by doing exercises that work the deltoid."
The symptoms you get from the flu shot are minimal and weak flu-like symptoms. I usually recommend acetaminophen if you have some symptoms of fever and body ache.
We received our flu shots at the end of July, and we started injecting our associates and patients the first week of August. Fluzone and Fluvirin are the two brands of injections we use. We give Fluzone HD for patients that have Medicare Part B. Oh and by the way, Medicare Part B pays for it entirely! It is essentially free for ages 65 and up. Medicare advantage only pays for the regular flu shot. If you have insurance, we need to see your insurance card and process it to see if the flu shot is covered.
"What is flu shot HD," you say? It is the influenza vaccine High Dose. It is supposed to illicit a quicker immune response, so the patient is protected from the flu faster than the regular flu shot. I believe you will have a full immune response and be protected from the flu in 7 to 10 days with Fluzone HD. The regular flu shot takes 2 weeks to be protected against the influenza virus.
For 2012-2013, flu shots have 2 new variants to the previous flu shot of 2011-2012. We did not have a huge breakout last year. Probably because most people received their flu shot and there was no crazy variation at the end of the flu season. The bird flu or avian flu of 2008 and the swine flu of 2009 caused major flu pandemics. They caused shortages of flu shots and Tamiflu, which fights the flu virus. The past couple of years we have had enough flu shots and no shortage. A lot of people have been getting their flu shots at local pharmacies and taking advantage of the easy access. Pharmacies are able to give shingles vaccine shots and pneumococcal vaccine shots. I will elaborate on Zostavax, the shingles vaccine, in another post. Don't forget to get your whooping cough vaccine, the pertussis shot. Elderly patients about to have new grandchildren need this pertussis vaccination. Again, most pharmacies have pharmacists that are certified immunizers. Visit your local pharmacy to get your vaccinations, today! By the way, you can get two shots in one day. It has to be a dead virus, like the influenza vaccine, and a live virus, like shingles vaccine. Two dead viruses like the flu shot and pneumococcal vaccine.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

PCAT Prep: Do it or fail!

Of course, I am a registered pharmacist with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, now. So, I took the Pharmacy College Admission Test, also known as the dreaded PCAT. When I took the PCAT exam, you could pass the test with just the knowledge you learned from high school and your pre-pharmacy courses at an undergraduate college. There were a couple of books available you
could study, but for the most part, it was not a very hard test. The hardest part was finishing the PCAT exam in the time allotted. We were only given about 30 minutes for each section with no clock in the room! I know. I forgot my watch. Doing sixty math problems in 30 minutes was pretty difficult, but I passed the test easily, about 85th percentile overall.
When I arrived at the pharmacy school, I was told by a few classmates and upper classmen that there was a book available at the time to pass the test with 99th percentile on all subjects. If you read the book tirelessly and memorized everything in it, you would pass with great ease. There were also PCAT practice exams in the book to hone your skills. I was shocked and wished that someone would have told me before I took the PCAT test what that book was. How could there be a book that not only helped you pass, but you could pass in the 99th percentile on all categories. I did not pay very close attention to what the book was or how to attain it. After all, I was already in pharmacy school.
I did not have to prepare for the PCAT or do PCAT prep, but I would have if I knew the scope of the test. Especially, if I was trying to get into pharmacy school now, I would study endlessly. It is extremely difficult to be accepted to pharmacy school now! You have to have close to a 4.0 GPA in undergraduate school and score a 75 or above on the PCAT. This is just the minimum scores! Most schools will not accept below 80 on the PCAT. I believe this book, 2012-2013 Kaplan PCAT, and this CD course, 2012 PCAT Audio Learn, will help you pass the PCAT with great scores in every category. These PCAT prep lessons are essential to passing the test. This will allow you to master the PCAT and eventually get into a great pharmacy school. You will then begin your journey in the profession of pharmacy.