Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently, but millions of people get the flu every year. Hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. It is estimated that flu-related hospitalizations since 2010 ranged from 140,000 to 710,000. While flu-related deaths are estimated to have ranged from 12,000 to 56,000[CDC]. During flu season, flu viruses circulate at higher levels in the environment (“Flu season”). In our country, the “Flu Season” begin as early as mid-August and last as late as May. Flu Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to fight against this common but dangerous disease.
Why should people get Flu Vaccination?
An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to reduce your risk of getting sick with seasonal flu and spreading it to others. When more people get the flu vaccination, less flu can spread through that community.
How flu vaccine work?
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Traditional flu vaccines (called “trivalent” vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. There are also flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines). These vaccines protect against the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine and an additional B virus.
What kinds of flu vaccines are available?
As per international guidelines we recommend the use of injectable influenza vaccines (including inactivated influenza vaccines and recombinant influenza vaccines) designated for that particular seasons.
Both trivalent (three-component) and quadrivalent (four-component) flu vaccines are available in injectable forms.
Trivalent flu vaccines include
- Standard-dose trivalent shots (IIV3) that are manufactured using virus grown in eggs. Different flu shots are approved for different age groups. Most flu shots are given in the arm (muscle) with a needle. One trivalent vaccine formulation can be given with a jet injector, for persons aged 18 through 64 years.
- A high-dose trivalent shot, approved for people 65 and older.
- A recombinant trivalent shot that is egg-free, approved for people 18 years and older, including pregnant women.
- A trivalent flu shot made with adjuvant(an ingredient of a vaccine that helps create a stronger immune response in the patient’s body), approved for people 65 years of age and older (new this season).
Quadrivalent flu vaccines include
- Quadrivalent flu shots approved for use in different age groups, including children as young as 6 months.
- An intradermal quadrivalent flu shot, which is injected into the skin instead of the muscle and uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot. It is approved for people 18 through 64 years of age.
- A quadrivalent flu shot containing virus grown in cell culture, which is approved for people 4 years of age and older.
- A recombinant quadrivalent flu shot approved for people 18 years of age and older, including pregnant women (new this season).
Are any of the available flu vaccines recommended over others?
For the 2017-2018 flu season, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older with either the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) or the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV). The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should not be used during 2017-2018. There is no preference for one vaccine over another among the recommended, approved injectable influenza vaccines. There are many vaccine options to choose from, but the most important thing is for all people 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine every year. If you have questions about which vaccine is best for you, we have an Immunotherapy Clinic at Aashwas for your all vaccine-related problems.
Who should get Flu Vaccination this season?
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season.
Vaccination to prevent influenza is particularly important for people who are at high risk for serious complications from influenza. See People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications for a full list of age and health factors that confer increased risk.
More information is available at Who Should Get Vaccinated Against Influenza.
Who should not be Vaccinated?
Factors that determine a person’s suitability for vaccination, or vaccination with a particular vaccine, include a person’s age, health (current and past) and any allergies to the flu vaccine or its components.
People who cannot get a flu shot
- Children younger than 6 months are too young to get a Flu Vaccination.
- People with severe, life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine. This might include gelatin, antibiotics, or other ingredients.
People who should talk to their doctor before getting the flu shot
- If you have an allergy to eggs or any of the ingredients in the vaccine. Talk to your doctor about your allergy.
- If you ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a severe paralyzing illness, also called GBS). Some people with a history of GBS should not get this vaccine. Talk to your doctor about your GBS history.
- If you are not feeling well, talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
When should I get vaccinated?
You should get a flu vaccine now if you haven’t gotten one already this season. It’s best to get Flu Vaccination before flu begins spreading in your community. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protects against flu. It is recommended that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.
Children who need two doses of vaccine to be protected should start the vaccination process sooner because the two doses must be given at least four weeks apart.
Where can I get a flu vaccine?
Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments and pharmacies.
Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?
Flu Vaccination 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 optimal protection.
- Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and sometimes updated to keep up with changing flu viruses. For the best protection, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually.
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 underway.
Vaccine Effectiveness of Flu Vaccination
Influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) can vary from year to year and among different age and risk groups.
What are the benefits of flu vaccination?
While how well the flu vaccine works can vary, there are many reasons to get a flu vaccine each year.
- Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with the flu.
- Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization, including among children and older adults. Vaccine effectiveness for the prevention of flu-associated hospitalizations was similar to vaccine effectiveness against flu illness resulting in doctor’s visits in a comparative study published in 2016.
- Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions.
- Flu vaccination has been associated with lower rates of some cardiac (heart) events among people with heart disease, especially among those who experienced a cardiac event in the past year.
- Flu vaccination also has been associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes (79%) and chronic lung disease (52%).
- Vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy. Getting vaccinated can also protect a baby after birth from flu. (Mom passes antibodies onto the developing baby during her pregnancy.)
- A study that looked at flu vaccine effectiveness in pregnant women found that vaccination reduced the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection by about one half.
- There are studies that show that the flu vaccine in a pregnant woman can reduce the risk of flu illness in her baby by up to half. This protective benefit was observed for several months after birth.
- And a 2017 study was the first of its kind to show that flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from influenza.
- Flu vaccination also may make your illness milder if you do get sick. (For example, 2017 study showed that flu vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized flu patients.)
- Getting vaccinated yourself also protects people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.
Side effects of Flu Vaccination (Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?)
No, a flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness. Flu vaccines that are administered with a needle are currently made in two ways: the vaccine is made either with a) flu vaccine viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are therefore not infectious, or b) with no flu vaccine viruses at all (which is the case for recombinant influenza vaccine). The nasal spray flu vaccine does contain live viruses. However, the viruses are attenuated (weakened), and therefore cannot cause flu illness. The weakened viruses are cold-adapted, which means they are designed to only cause infection at the cooler temperatures found within the nose. The viruses cannot infect the lungs or other areas where warmer temperatures exist.
While a flu vaccine cannot give you flu illness, there are different side effects that may be associated with getting a flu shot or a nasal spray flu vaccine. These side effects are mild and short-lasting, especially when compared to symptoms of a bad case of flu.
The flu shot: The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Some minor side effects that may occur are:
- Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
- Fever (low grade)
The nasal spray: The viruses in the nasal spray vaccine are weakened and do not cause severe symptoms often associated with influenza illness.
In children, side effects from the nasal spray may include the following symptoms.
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
In adults, side effects from the nasal spray vaccine may include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
If these problems occur, they begin soon after vaccination and are mild and short-lived. Almost all people who receive influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it. However, on rare occasions, flu vaccination can cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. In this case, seek medical assistance immediately.