Flu season lasts for quite a while, and as it comes on each year, you want to do your best to avoid getting it. While some people only experience mild symptoms, things can be a lot more severe for others, and you never know how things may turn out for you. Additionally, it’s quite contagious, which means getting it can pose a problem for your loved ones too.
Vaccination is one of the proven ways to avoid a flu scare. Information on vaccines can seem to be spread far and thin. Thankfully, all you need to know is below, and you can be a big help by sharing all of this with those you value the most, as you aim to protect yourself and others.
Flu Vaccine Basics
While influenza is a seasonal thing, it can pose much more than an occasional threat for many people. This goes double for those who have certain existing conditions, as well as very young children and seniors. The flu can be incredibly dangerous, which is why the vaccine exists to protect you from it.
It’s a simple shot or spray, and it keeps your lungs in good working order. With COVID-19 in full swing, it’s even more important than ever to get vaccinated. Apart from just preventing you from getting ill, the vaccine helps to protect others around you.
How Does Flu Vaccine Work?
Vaccines tend to work in the same basic way. The virus being fought against is used in its creation. However, the form it’s used in is not as strong as the one that causes sickness. After the shot is received, your body produces antibodies that make you all but immune to infection.
Flu vaccines are geared towards doing this for different strains of the virus. Every year, researchers identify which strains are likely to be the most prevalent. Subsequently, vaccine creation focuses on those for each season.
For example, in the United States, the most common flu vaccines protect against two influenzas A viruses (H1N1 and H3N2) and one influenza B virus.
Who Can Have Flu Vaccine?
You may be inclined to think that something as important as a vaccine would be administered to everyone. The average person can have the flu vaccine, but there are normally some considerations that surround this. Additionally, the recommendations for the nasal spray and shot administration types are a bit different.
It’s also important to note that not all flu shots are the same, so persons tend to get approved for whatever one is most suited to them. For example, inactivated influenza vaccines are suited to much younger patients, and they can be administered to babies as young as six months old. On the flip side, the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV) is approved for people 18 years old and older.
It’s all about evaluating the patient’s unique situation and deciding if vaccination is recommended, as well as the most optimal administration method.
Flu Vaccine for People with Long-term Health Conditions
Unfortunately, most persons who have long-term health conditions can’t freely be administered vaccines, as they are in a more fragile state than others. Sometimes, it’s not necessarily an actively chronic condition; instead, it’s an ingredient response.
Some people have life-threatening allergies to flu vaccines as a whole or one or more of the ingredients present. Gelatin and antibiotics sit among two of the most common such elements. Certain other illnesses, such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome, also cause for concern.
The nasal spray administration method brings even more barriers. Those who have immunosuppression, heart disease (excluding isolated hypertension), liver disorders, kidney disease, severe acute illnesses, etc., are not recommended for this vaccination method.
These rules are still evaluated on a case by case basis, so even if you have one of these conditions, it’s worth a shot to visit your doctor to see if you are at risk.
Flu Vaccine for Pregnant Women
When a woman is pregnant, the things she does can translate to an impact on her growing fetus’s health and life. Vaccination is no exception, but there is some good news for those who are expecting, and a little bit concerned.
As far as the flu shot is concerned, pregnant women can receive it. As always, however, it doesn’t hurt to do a quick consultation to make sure.
If you are pregnant and are considering the nasal spray method of administration, that’s where the problem comes into the mix. Pregnant women are listed in the ranks of people who should never get a nasal spray flu vaccine.
So, while the flu vaccine is accessible to pregnant women, only the shot method is recommended for them.
When and Where You Can Get Vaccinated Against Flu
Flu vaccination provides a temporary method of protection against what can be a troublesome virus. It’s essential for you to remember that this temporary window has a more active and passive period. In other words, you want to get your vaccine at a time that allows it to be at its strongest during the flu season each year.
The flu vaccine takes about two weeks after administration to start protecting you effectively. That window allows your body to develop the necessary antibodies. With that in mind, you should also remember that the flu season tends to begin around fall each year.
Therefore, you want your protection window to be in full swing when it kicks in. The end of October is a good time to get vaccinated when you consider the timelines. Getting it in earlier months, such as August, is not recommended, as the protection level weakens when you need it most.
The exception to this rule is children who need two vaccine doses. The reason is that four weeks is the minimum period that must be allowed to pass between administrations. Therefore, these kids can start things off earlier.
You have quite a bit of choice at your disposal when choosing where to have the process done. Health departments, pharmacies, college health centers, doctor’s offices, and clinics are among the most common administrative areas. Some schools and workplaces also take the initiative to ensure that their students and staff members, respectively, are protected.
Persons looking to be vaccinated don’t need to have a regular doctor. You need only locate the closest building to you that administers the vaccine.
Flu Vaccine Match
Vaccine effectiveness (VE) is a concept you can’t ignore, especially where flu vaccines are concerned. While getting the shot or nasal spray does provide a measure of protection, it’s not completely foolproof. The real problem is that the influenza virus shows up in several strains. It’s not a single virus, as most people may think.
Additionally, it always seems to be mutating, which is why vaccines are adjusted annually to match the flu in its most current state. Think of the idea of a “match” in the same way you would think of a teacher teaching an appropriate subject. A math teacher is best suited to teaching math, while a science teacher is best suited to teaching science. It’s not impossible for each to teach the other subject, but it likely would not be as effective.
Similarly, whatever iteration of the virus is present determines how effective the vaccine in circulation is. The closer the match, the better the level of protection you get. Of course, other factors, such as age and health, also come into the mix, but all those elements are much less relevant unless the match is good.
Vaccine Supply and Distribution
The amount of flu vaccine in supply changes each year, but it’s always possible to get a projection of what the production numbers are going to look like. While much of the information on this protective measure comes from government agencies, the actual manufacturing is taken on and completed by private entities.
Of course, while there are similarities, the driving factors behind production in private firms differ from their state-controlled counterparts. For example, the 2020-2021 flu season has a projection of between 194 and 198 million influenza vaccine doses.
Note that these are projections, and the real numbers are subject to change for many reasons. The annual supply is not typically exhausted, as the number of people who get vaccinated each season tends to fall way below government recommendations.
Vaccine Benefits: Reasons to Get Vaccinated Against Flu
In the context of COVID-19, it’s probably more important than ever to ensure that you and your loved ones are vaccinated. Both the COVID-19 and flu viruses are expected to spread during this year’s flu season. As you can imagine, the already somewhat strained health system is going to have its hands full dealing with patients who fall victim to either illness.
That should be more than enough motivation to take the necessary precautions and ensure that you get your flu vaccine. However, it’s essential to note that it’s a precautionary measure for the influenza virus only. The flu vaccine does not give you any kind of protection against COVID-19.
Reasons to Get Vaccinated Every Year
There are many advantages to those who decide to get their flu vaccines completed annually. Here is an outline of some of the amazing things that can come from getting your vaccines done yearly:
The vaccination process helps to keep you from contracting influenza. This advantage shouldn’t come as a shock, as it is the whole idea behind getting the vaccine. The more people who become vaccinated, the fewer doctor’s visits become necessary for the virus. For example, in the 2018-2019 season, over two million such visits were mitigated through vaccination. When the vaccine match is optimal, as much as 60% of people are less likely to have to see the doctor because of the flu.
Doctor’s visits are one thing, but hospitalization is another. Many people find this hard to believe because their flu experiences have never been severe, but the virus can come with adverse effects, and it can even be fatal. In the same season discussed above, an estimate of over 55,000 flu-related hospitalization incidents were prevented, thanks to vaccination.
While it’s true that many people with chronic conditions cannot receive the vaccine readily, that’s not the case for everyone. Some people with underlying conditions, such as lung disease and diabetes, are more susceptible to the flu’s adverse effects than others. When protected by vaccination, that risk becomes much lower.
Women who get vaccinated during their pregnancy also derive unique benefits. Not only does it mean a reduced risk of being hospitalized for the flu or its associated conditions, but the infant may also be protected for months after birth. On a related note, children face a lower death risk from flu when vaccinated.
As indicated before, vaccination is not a full measure of protection. However, vaccinated persons who get sick are less likely to have severe complications associated with the flu.
Reasons to Not Get Vaccinated
Especially in the field of medicine, there aren’t many things that have no downsides. Even if the concerns are not incredibly detrimental, they can create some level of doubt. Here are a couple of the things that may cause you not to wish to get vaccinated:
The effectiveness metric of the vaccine is not high enough to give it a reliable comfort level. Even when there is a vaccine match, the highest recorded vaccination success percentage in stopping influenza that requires medical care is 60%. The match is not always that good, which means that your chances of protection are average or low at best. Back in 2004-2005, it was only 10% effective, while in 2014-2015, it was only 19% effective.
The ingredients used in the vaccine are a cause for concern. The CDC makes the ingredients public knowledge, and compounds such as aluminum, formaldehyde, and MSG, are not necessarily the first things you want being injected into your bloodstream. Aluminum is one example of something that does not belong in the body, and others, such as MSG, can become a problem.
Kinds of Flu Vaccines
Flu vaccines come under two major categories, which are trivalent and quadrivalent. The terms imply that three ingredients and four ingredients, respectively, are used. For the upcoming flu season, The CDC approves the use of any flu vaccine which is licensed and age-appropriate. Therefore, both vaccine types are going to be made available for those who need them.
Trivalent Flu Vaccines
The trivalent vaccine, which is also an adjuvanted vaccine, is one with an additive that fosters a more powerful response from the immune system. Its design is intended for those at least 65 years old.
Quadrivalent Flu Vaccines
Quadrivalent flu vaccines come in a range of different types. The first, which is the standard dose quadrivalent influenza shot, is created by using a virus that is grown in eggs. Fluzone Quadrivalent, FluLaval Quadrivalent, Fluarix Quadrivalent, and Afluria Quadrivalent come under this category. Typically, anyone who is at least six months old can get this vaccine, which professionals administer with a needle into the arm muscle. Anyone who is at least 18 years old can have it administered with a jet injector.
When the virus is grown in cell culture, it’s used to create a quadrivalent cell-based flu shot. This alternative is egg-free and suited for those who are at least four years old. Flucelvax Quadrivalent falls under this umbrella.
Flublok Quadrivalent is next, and it is a recombinant quadrivalent influenza shot. Only those who are 18 and older are approved, and it’s egg-free.
There is also a version of the quadrivalent flu shot that uses an adjuvant to stimulate a stronger immune response. As is the case with the trivalent counterpart, this one is approved for those who are at least 65 years old.
Next, there is the live attenuated flu vaccine, and FluMist Quadrivalent comes under this category. Those who are two to 49 years old can receive it, and it is administered intranasally.
Flu and COVID-19
Unfortunately, the presence of COVID-19 creates greater concerns around the seasonal flu. The same virus does not cause the two, and their relationship is nothing that is going to make you delighted. If anything, it highlights why it is more important than ever to ensure that you get your vaccination at the right time.
First, the personal risk level for COVID-19 and the flu are similar. In other words, if the coronavirus poses a grave concern to you because of problems, such as underlying health risks, then the flu also poses a greater risk for having adverse effects on you.
Next, it is possible to get the coronavirus and flu at the same time. Currently, research indicates that people who experience this phenomenon are more likely to fall seriously ill.
Remember that there are many social care and NHS staff members who must deal with conducive environments to contracting COVID-19. So, getting a flu vaccine means one less thing to worry about.
Note that even those who have had the coronavirus can safely take the flu vaccine. If anything, it should be an effective tool to help you stay away from dealing with both viruses.
Vaccine Side Effects
If you are worried about contracting influenza from your vaccine, you can start calming down. The flu virus used to make vaccines are either dead or severely weakened. In either state, they are unable to give you the flu. Nevertheless, there are some side effects to watch out for that can often be linked to being vaccinated. Both the shot and the nasal spray administration methods have their lists of effects.
The shot can result in nausea, fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and slight headaches. You may also notice some redness, swelling, or soreness at the site of the shot.
When the nasal spray is used, the effects are different in children and adults. Children often have slight fevers, vomiting, headaches, muscle aches, a runny nose, and wheezing. On the other hand, adults may experience a sore throat, headache, runny nose, or cough.
Any of these side effects that follow the vaccination tend to be both mild and short-lasting. Note, however, that if you experience ringing in the ears, dizziness, or vision changes, you should immediately report it to your provider.
Allergic Reactions to the Flu Vaccine
Allergic reactions to the flu vaccine are very rare, but they are not impossible. The good thing is that such occurrences tend to happen very shortly after the vaccination takes place. Therefore, you are typically still in the presence of the vaccine administrator. Note that these persons are trained to deal with serious allergic reactions, so you are treated immediately.
If you have had such a reaction to a flu vaccine in the past, it’s not typically recommended that you attempt to have another one in a subsequent season.
Flu Vaccine Effectiveness
How well the flu vaccine works has never been a clear-cut thing. There are a lot of factors that go into the experiences that different people have after becoming vaccinated. The level of protection you get from a vaccine doesn’t carry over from one season to the next. Even if you are vaccinated within a certain season, your age, overall health, and other factors can either help or hinder the protection process.
Of course, the match between the vaccine administered and the iteration of the flu virus at play is also the matter of the match. The amount of protection provided varies greatly, but that’s not necessarily a reason to believe that you are better off not being vaccinated.
Whenever there is something that can help you take the right step in looking after your health, you should never ignore it. Getting vaccinated is not a challenging thing to do, and it can make the difference between a very comfortable or an equally uncomfortable flu season for you.
Remember that by taking steps to prevent yourself from getting infected, you can also eliminate yourself as a source of virus spread. Additionally, you can protect those you love even more by sharing your newfound knowledge about the flu vaccine’s importance.