In the United States, flu season comes every autumn and winter. As a contagious illness that affects a person’s respiratory system, the flu sends hundreds of thousands of people in hospitals and even results in thousands of deaths every year.
There are many ways to prevent contracting the flu virus, such as keeping your immune system strong and practicing good and regular hand hygiene. However, the single, most effective way to prevent getting sick with flu is by receiving a flu vaccine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, receiving the flu shot can reduce the chances of getting the flu virus by about 60 percent. However, this number can vary every year and among different groups of people.
Anyone who is over 6 months of age can receive a flu vaccine every year. While it is very safe, people who have previously had a severe reaction to the vaccine or to any of its ingredients should not receive it.
Effectiveness of the flu vaccine
One of the most common misconceptions about the flu vaccine is that it can give flu to the person who is being immunized. However, this is not the case because the vaccine only contains an inactivated or weakened form of the flu virus or its components. Therefore, it cannot lead to an infection.
While the flu vaccine is effective to ward off the virus, how well it works or prevent illness can vary, depending on the season and who is receiving the flu shot. Some of the factors that can play a role in its effectivity include:
- Age and general health. The flu vaccine is most effective in healthy adults. For older adults, it does not work as well as it used to, also because of naturally weakened immune systems as we grow older. However, older people should still receive a flu shot because the influenza virus is known to be more dangerous for them. It can also reduce the risk of developing complications. A person’s health also plays a role in determining the vaccine’s effectiveness. Since vaccines work by boosting the immune system into action, its effectiveness can depend on how the person’s immunity will respond to it. Chronic illnesses, for instance, can lead to weakened body defenses.
- Similarity of the vaccine to dominant flu strains. The flu vaccine, unlike other vaccines, is usually updated every season to protect the people against what may be the dominant flu strains for that year. Viruses are monitored worldwide, and these are the basis of the predictions. While usually accurate, these are also not foolproof.
For people who may be at high risk for complications brought by the flu, it is vital that they do not skip the vaccine.
Benefits of the flu vaccine
There are several reasons why people should get their flu vaccine every year.
- Flu vaccination can protect you from getting sick with the flu. Receiving the flu vaccine can reduce the risk of getting sick and can lessen hospitalizations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu vaccination during 2017 to 2018 prevented over 6 million influenza illnesses and at least 5,700 deaths associated with the flu. In the same time period, experts say the flu vaccine prevented approximately 91,000 hospitalizations due to the flu. Meanwhile, a study has shown that the flu vaccine had lessened the risk for children to be admitted to pediatric intensive care units due to flu by at least 74 percent during the flu seasons from 2010 to 2012.
- Flu vaccination can protect the community. When an individual protects himself from the flu by getting vaccinated, his or her actions also protect those who cannot receive vaccinations. These include those who are still too young to receive the flu shot or cannot be vaccinated due to weakened immune systems.
- Flu vaccination can protect people with chronic health conditions. Studies have linked flu vaccinations to reduced rates of some cardiac arrests among people living with heart disease. The vaccine can also help lessen the risk of worsening flu-related chronic lung diseases.
- Flu vaccination can help protect women during and even after pregnancy. A study done in 2018 that looked into flu seasons from 2010 to 2016 showed that receiving a flu vaccine lessened the risk for a pregnant woman of being hospitalized due to flu by at least 40 percent.
With a vaccine, the flu can be a preventable disease. So make sure to get a flu vaccine to keep you and your family protected from the virus.
You can receive the flu vaccine at any of your upcoming appointments at Garnet Health Doctors, including Urgent Care, Primary Care, or Specialty Care. If you do not have an appointment and would like to schedule one, please call us at 845-333-7575.