The Flu shot, Influenza Vaccine is a yearly vaccine against the flu, or influenza. They are administered for everyone ages 6 months and older. The vaccine is especially important for those individuals who are immune compromised, children, the elderly and those with underlying chronic ailments and comorbidities. The flu vaccine provides protection against the H1N1 virus, in addition to two other influenza virus strains expected this year. A quadrivalent vaccine that provides protection against four strains will be available for the elderly above the age of 65. Its a slightly higher dose and provides extra protection from 4 strains of the virus. Influenza virus can cause a respiratory tract infection and carries a high degree of morbidity and mortality.
Why do we have to get vaccinated every year with the Flu Shot ?
Various Strains of the influenza virus are constantly changing due to mutations causing frequent shifts in its genetic composition. Scientists predict which flu strains are most likely to be the culprits every season. The vaccine is composed accordingly every year in advance.
Flu nasal vaccine cancelled this season 2016-17
In 2013, flu nasal spray was introduced and tried till 2015 with lower effectiveness as compared to the traditional injectable form of the vaccine. So for this 2016-2017 season the nasal spray form of the vaccine is not recommended for use.
When is the best time to get vaccinated with the flu shot ?
Early fall, preferably at the end of October is an ideal time to get the flu shot done. Flu season peaks in and around January or February so getting vaccinated prior to the start of the season would provide adequate protection. It usually takes up to two weeks to build up substantial immunity against the flu. You can get vaccinated even after the flu season starts or after the above defined period. It can still be beneficial. Just make sure it does not get as late as February or march unless you have plans to travel to the southern hemisphere where flu season may persist even beyond these months.
Is the Flu vaccine Effective
Yes, its very much effective and provides protection against the ever changing and evolving influenza virus.
According to studies, vaccinated individuals are 70 percent less likely to catch the flu as compared to those who are not vaccinated.
Even if the vaccinated individuals catch the flu, they are much less likely to be hospitalized than those who are not vaccinated.
Flu Vaccine in Pregnancy
Flu vaccine is completely safe in pregnancy at all stages / trimesters. If a pregnant mother gets infected with the influenza virus then she is much more likely to develop complications so its important that she gets vaccinated.
Another plus point is that she would pass these antibodies to her child which will protect the baby for the six months during which he/she is too young to get the conventional vaccine.
Side Effects of Flu shot, Influenza Vaccine
Side effects are usually minimal as its generally very well tolerated. If you are getting vaccinated for the 1st time then it may lead to a flu like illness, low grade fever, headache , slight dizziness and generalized body aches. This will generally last for less than a 24 hours or two days at max. Paracetamol or acetaminophen can be taken to counter these symptoms. They usually resolve without any complications.
Can You get the Flu from the Flu shot, Influenza Vaccine ?
It’s a false belief and myth that one can get flu from the flu vaccine as the flu shot contains viruses which are already killed, so they cannot cause disease. Some people may catch the common cold in this period and may attribute it to the vaccine. Others may get infected with strains other than those against which the vaccine was prepared and they may also think that the flu was due to the vaccine. Plus the vaccine takes 2 weeks to start working optimally. Any infection in that window period cant be prevented by the vaccine.
Who should not get the Flu shot, Influenza Vaccine
- Children less than 6 months of age
- People having high grade fever
- People with severe allergic reaction to the contents of the vaccine in the past