Do It For Love

September 16, 2014

CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend a universal flu vaccination policy: Every one six months and older should get an annual flu vaccine . Flu vaccination is viewed as the first and most important step in protecting against the flu.

 There are many people who get their annual flu vaccination. But there are also many people who do not. This group has doubts about the need for a vaccine as well as the safety of the product. If you are an annual flu shot receiver, you probably don’t need to read on. But for “doubters”, please consider the following questions and answers as you contemplate why you should get a flu vaccine and if not for yourself, do it for love.  

 When does flu season start? The exact definition of the “flu season” is hard to pin down. Flu may arrive early in the fall and slowly wane in the late winter; or it can start late in the fall and carry over to the spring. Regardless of when the “flu season” starts, vaccinations begin in late August and continue through early winter. If you are reading this article, now is the time to get your flu vaccination.

 I have heard that flu vaccines don’t totally prevent flu and that no one knows for sure if the vaccine will match the circulating germs.  Flu vaccines are not perfect and they are not a 100% guarantee that you will not get the flu. However, they are the best tool that we have at this time to prevent the illness or decrease the severity, should you still contract the flu. The preparation used each year is based on data analysis of what is expected to circulate.

 If I got a flu vaccine last year, why do I need a flu vaccine every year? That isn’t true with other vaccines. A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for the best  protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine (what goes into the vaccine) is reviewed each year and sometimes updated to keep up with changing flu viruses.

 I have heard that flu vaccines can give you the flu. Is this true? Absolutely not. You do not get the flu from a flu vaccine, as it is made with viruses that are inactivated (injectable form) or have been weakened (nasal form.)

 Does flu vaccine work right away? No. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. That’s why it’s better to get vaccinated early in the fall, before the flu season really gets under way.

 Can I get seasonal flu even though I got a flu vaccine this year? Yes. There is still a possibility you could get the flu even if you got vaccinated. The ability of flu vaccine to protect a person depends on various factors, including the age and health status of the person being vaccinated, and also the similarity or “match” between the viruses used to make the vaccine and those circulating in the community. If the viruses in the vaccine and the influenza viruses circulating in the community are closely matched, vaccine effectiveness is higher. If they are not closely matched, vaccine effectiveness can be reduced. However, it’s important to remember that even when the viruses are not closely matched, the vaccine can still protect many people and prevent flu-related complications. Such protection is possible because antibodies made in response to the vaccine can provide some protection (called cross-protection) against different but related influenza viruses.

 What are the benefits of flu vaccination?

There are a lot of reasons to get a flu vaccine each year.

  • Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick from flu. Protecting yourself from flu also protects the people around you who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness.
  • Flu vaccination can help protect people who are at greater risk of getting seriously ill from flu, like older adults, people with chronic health conditions and young children (especially infants younger than 6 months old who are too young to get vaccinated).
  • Flu vaccination also may make your illness milder if you do get sick.
  • Research has shown that flu vaccination can reduce the risk of more serious flu outcomes, like hospitalizations and deaths.

 Do it for those you love! Please consider vaccination this season. Not only do you protect your own health, but you protect the health of those most vulnerable, like infants, the elderly and those with chronic illness, from complications from the flu. It is safe, effective and easy to get.

Information in this column was compiled from CDC.gov and Immunize.org. For written information on flu shot preparations, District Residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) can call 203 248-4528 or request on line, dculligan@qvhd.org.