Flu Vaccination

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Why should people get vaccinated against the flu?

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. CDC estimate 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. During flu season, flu viruses circulate at higher levels. 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 vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through that community.

How do flu vaccines 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.

Who should get vaccinated this season?

Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. This recommendation has been in place since February 24, 2010 when CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted for “universal” flu vaccination in the United States to expand protection against the flu to more people.

Vaccination to prevent influenza is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from influenza.

Who Should Not Be Vaccinated?

CDC recommends use of a flu shot; either an inactivated influenza vaccine or (IIV) or a recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV). The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should not be used during 2017-2018. Different flu vaccines are approved for use in different groups of people. Factors that can 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 flu vaccine or its components.

•People who cannot get a flu shot
•People who should talk to their doctor before getting the flu shot

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 vaccinated before flu begins spreading in your community. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against flu. CDC recommends 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.

Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?

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 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 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.

Vaccine Effectiveness

Influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) can vary from year to year and among different age and risk groups.

Vaccine Benefits

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 flu.
•Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization, including among children and older adults.
oVaccine 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.
oFlu 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.
oFlu 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.)
oA 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.
oThere are studies that show that 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 a 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.

Vaccine Side Effects (What to Expect)

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 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)
Aches

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:
•Runny nose
•Wheezing
•Headache
•Vomiting
•Muscle aches
•Fever

In adults, side effects from the nasal spray vaccine may include:
•Runny nose
•Headache
•Sore throat
•Cough

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. People who think that they have been injured by the flu shot can file a claim for compensation from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).

Article adopted from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm

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