What The Flu Vaccine Does
The goal of an influenza vaccine is to expose your immune system to viral proteins. This may sound like exactly what you are hoping to avoid, but these proteins serve as antigenssubstances your immune system will form defensive antibodies to combat.
When you are next exposed to an influenza virus , your body will be ready to make antibodies that will prevent you from being infected yourself. The antibodies latch onto the virus and inactivate it.
There are a few different flu vaccination options. While formulated differently, they all work to achieve this result. And despite being derived from the influenza virus itself, they do this without making you sick:
Flu vaccines cannot give a healthy person the flu rather they help the body produce an immune response without contracting an infection.
How Often Does The Average Adult Get The Flu
A new study in PLoS Biology finds that the average adult over age 30 contract the flu just twice every 10 years, a rate much lower than children or adolescents.
For the study, researchers from the Imperial College of London and institutes in the United States and China analyzed blood samples of 151 volunteers in Southern China who were between ages seven and 81. Specifically, they looked at participants’ antibody levels against nine different flu strains that circulated between 1968 and 2009.
In addition to calculating the flu’s frequency, the team created a mathematical model of how an individual’s immunity to the flu shifts over his or her lifetime as different strains become prevalent.
According to the study, adults typically get the flu twice per decade, while children tend to contract the virus every other year. The study also gave support to the theory that exposure to flu strains earlier in life triggers a stronger immune response than exposure at later ages.
Steven Riley of the Imperial College says, “For adults, we found that influenza infection is actually much less common than some people think,” adding, “In childhood and adolescence, it’s much more common, possibly because we mix more with other people.” However, the study also points out that the frequency of infection also depends on the background on the individual and “levels of flu and vaccination.”
The Shot: Seasonal Flu Or Influenza Vaccine
How often: Yearly, usually in the fall.
What to expect: It is straightforwardjust a jab in the shoulder.
After hearing about the efficiency rates of the Covid-19 vaccines and their ability to stop variants, you might think that the flu vaccine has some catching up to do. The flu vaccine is maybe 50%, 60%, 70% at best, says Peter Katona, M.D., UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of epidemiology and of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles.
This flu virus is a sneaky bugger that mutates with fervor. Each year, the new flu vaccine is created to protect against a strain of the flu virus that scientists believe will emerge. Some years, they guess right other years, not so much. Either way, any vaccine is better than none, priming your immune system for what might be ahead.
Generally speaking, there are almost no reasons why people shouldn’t be getting a COVID and a flu shot, Dr. Wolfe says. We know they are effective. We know that theyre safe. So, the mere fact that we can’t quite predict how busy the flu season should be, shouldn’t be a reason for folks to put their head in the sand, and think that they shouldnt do it.
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A Flu Vaccine Is The Best Prevention
Flu seasons and their severity are unpredictable. Annual vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza in people ages 6 months and older.
An annual vaccination to prevent flu is the best way to reduce the risk of getting the flu and spreading it to others. When more people get vaccinated, it is less likely that the flu viruses will spread through a community.
The vaccine typically changes each year and contains the four flu virus strains that are expected to circulate in the U.S. during the upcoming flu season. The effectiveness of influenza vaccines varies depending on several factors, such as the age and health of the recipient, the types of circulating influenza viruses, and the degree of similarity between circulating viruses and those included in the vaccine.
The task of producing a new vaccine for the next flu season starts well before the current season ends. For the FDA, its a year-round initiative.
The flu vaccine will trigger your immune system to produce antibodies to protect against influenza disease it will not make you sick with the flu. It can take about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body, which is an important reason to get your flu vaccine early, before flu activity starts.
Considerations For Getting A Covid
Its safe for your health care provider to administer a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other vaccines. If youre 12 years of age or older, you may get the flu shot at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine. You may also get it any time before or after you receive the flu shot.
For children aged 5 to 11, the National Advisory Council on Immunization recommends a 14-day interval between a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines. This is to help better monitor for possible side effects from COVID-19 vaccines. Provinces and territories will decide on an interval for this age group as part of their vaccination programs.
Talk to a health care provider or consult your provincial or territorial public health authority for the latest guidance.
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Getting A Flu Shot Every Year More May Not Be Better
If youve been diligent about getting your flu shot every year, you may not want to read this. But a growing body of evidence indicates that more may not always be better.
The evidence, which is confounding some researchers, suggests that getting flu shots repeatedly can gradually reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines under some circumstances.
That finding is worrying public health officials in the US, who have been urging everyone to get a flu shot each year and who still believe an annual vaccination is better than skipping the vaccines altogether.
Dr. Edward Belongia is among the scientists who have seen the picture coming into focus. He and some colleagues at Wisconsins reported recently that children who had been vaccinated annually over a number of years were more likely to contract the flu than kids who were only vaccinated in the season in which they were studied.
The vaccine was significantly more effective if they had not been vaccinated in the previous five years, Belongia, an epidemiologist, recounted in a recent interview with STAT.
Vaccines work by exposing the immune system to a part of a disease agent in the case of influenza, to two proteins on the exterior of the viruses that has been rendered harmless. The vaccines tell the immune system to be ready to mount an offensive if it encounters the specified invaders.
The immune system then produces stores of protective ammunition antibodies it can use to fight off infection.
Common Symptoms Of A Cold The Flu And Covid
The chart below shows common symptoms. Not everyone will have these symptoms. Your symptoms may be more or less severe, or you may only have a few. If you feel sick, stay home and call your doctor
- Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze
- Staying home when you are sick
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
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How Should I Approach Getting Vaccinated
Prioritizing is the name of the game plan during 2021 and 2022. Everyone really should’ve had the COVID vaccine by nowif they haven’t or they’re still sort of sitting on the fence, then preferably, the sooner the better, Dr. Wolfe says. Then, flu and/or pneumonia as you come into the winter.” Shingles is not seasonally dependent, “but people should talk to their doctor about it.
Ideally, you can piggybank some of these vaccines together. For instance, COVID with flu, or flu with pneumonia, or shingles with flu. For many years, we’ve done flu and pneumonia together, Dr. Wolfe says. I think trying to give people three vaccines at once is probably asking for a bit much, but certainly two at once can be done with no concerns.
The Flu Shot Is Effective
The effectiveness of the vaccine varies from season to season. It depends on:
- how well the vaccine matches with the circulating flu viruses
- the health and age of the person getting the flu shot
The viruses circulating in the population can sometimes change during the time it takes to produce a vaccine. When this happens during the flu season, the flu shot may not work as well as expected.
It’s also important to remember that the flu shot protects against several different flu viruses each season. The seasonal flu shot can still provide protection against the remaining 2 or 3 viruses, even when theres:
- a less-than-ideal match
- lower effectiveness against one virus
If you do get the flu, the flu shot may reduce the severity of flu-related complications.
Getting your flu shot is still the most effective way to protect yourself against the flu and flu-related complications.
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Who Should Get The Flu Vaccine
Everyone 6 months of age and older should be vaccinated for flu. It is especially important that the people in one of the groups listed below get a flu shot every year as they are more likely to get severely ill with flu.
- Children aged 6 months through 18 years
- People 50 years of age and older
- Pregnant and postpartum women
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, neurologic and neuromuscular conditions and weakened immune systems
- People with muscle and nerve disorders that make it difficult to breath or swallow
- Children aged 6 months through 18 years on long-term aspirin therapy
- People who live in nursing homes and other long term care facilities
- Anyone who might transmit flu to someone at risk. For example, health care workers, including those in training, emergency response workers, direct care staff, people who live with or care for anyone on the list above, and people who live with or care for infants under 6 months of age, including parents, siblings, and daycare providers
How To Book Your Appointment
If you’re eligible for a free flu vaccine, you can book an appointment at your GP surgery or a pharmacy that offers it on the NHS.
You may also get an invitation to get the vaccine, but you do not have to wait for this before booking an appointment.
Everyone who is eligible for the free flu vaccine will be able to get it.
GP surgeries and pharmacies get the flu vaccine in batches. If you cannot get an appointment straight away, ask if you can book an appointment for when more vaccines are available.
If you have an appointment for a COVID-19 booster vaccine at a GP surgery or pharmacy, you may also be offered a flu vaccine at the same time.
Do not delay booking your flu vaccine appointment so that you can get both vaccines together. Only some people will be offered both vaccines at the same time.
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Dispelling Misinformation About The Flu Vaccine Sickness Treatment And Recovery
If you’ve ever had the , you know how sick you can be. Chances are good that some of the advice friends and family gave you about avoiding or dealing with the flu was wrong. There seems to be no shortage of misinformation and bad advice when it comes to dealing with the flu and the flu shot.
Here are 10 common myths about the flu.
What Are The Benefits Of Flu Vaccination
There are many reasons to get an influenza vaccine each year. Below is a summary of the benefits of flu vaccination and selected scientific studies that support these benefits.
Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with flu.
Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization for children, working-age adults, and older adults.
Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions.
Flu vaccination has been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease, especially among those who had had a cardiac event in the past year.
Flu vaccination can reduce worsening and hospitalization for flu-related chronic lung disease, such as in persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Flu vaccination also has been shown in separate studies to be associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes and chronic lung disease.
Flu vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy.
Flu vaccines can be lifesaving in children.
Flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce the severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick.
The study finding links to support these findings can be found here:
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I wouldnt trust tests that are done on consecutive days if ones positive and ones negative. But say someones infected and theyre getting better at five days, and they have another home antigen test and thats negative, that person can then go and be around others with very little risk of transmission.
-Dr. Joseph Kontra, chief of infectious diseases, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health
Vaccine Supply And Distribution
How much influenza vaccine is projected to be available for the 2021-2022 influenza season?
Flu vaccine is produced by private manufacturers, so supply depends on manufacturers. Vaccine manufacturers have projected that they will supply the United States with as many as 188 million to 200 million doses of influenza vaccine for the 2021-2022 season. These projections may change as the season progresses. All flu vaccines for the 2021-2022 season will be quadrivalent . Most will be thimerosal-free or thimerosal-reduced vaccine and about 18% of flu vaccines will be egg-free.
Where can I find information about vaccine supply?
Special Consideration Regarding Egg Allergy
People with egg allergies can receive any licensed, recommended age-appropriate influenza vaccine that is otherwise appropriate. People who have a history of severe egg allergy should be vaccinated in a medical setting, supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic reactions. Two completely egg-free flu vaccine options are available: quadrivalent recombinant vaccine and quadrivalent cell-based vaccine.
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Can I Get The Influenza Vaccine And Covid
You can get the Pfizer or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine but not on the same day. You should wait at least 7 days between receiving a dose of COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine.
You arent required to have the vaccines in any particular order. The order will likely depend on vaccine availability, so you may receive whichever vaccine you have access to first.
If youre having the Pfizer vaccine, this means you may be able to get a flu vaccination in between the 2 doses, if appropriate.
In special cases, your healthcare provider may consider shortening the time period between the different vaccines or they may suggest you receive the vaccines on the same day. This will only be considered if:
- theres a high risk that youll be exposed to one of the diseases
- its highly likely that the opportunity of receiving either vaccine will be missed
If this is suggested, youll be counselled about any possible adverse events from each vaccine. Youll be advised to report any adverse events.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more advice on how to schedule vaccinations.
More Ways You Can Help Protect Yourself Against The Flu
After you get your flu shot, continue to take steps to protect yourself and others from the flu and from COVID-19. That means frequent hand-washing, wearing a cloth mask and keeping a safe distance when youre in public spaces. Here are more ways you can help protect yourself and your community:
If youre feeling sick, stay home
Wash your hands throughout the day, especially after youve been in a public place or if you sneeze or cough
Avoid close contact with others and maintain a physical distance from others when youre in public spaces
Wear a cloth mask to cover your mouth and nose when youre around others. This helps protect others in case you may be infected
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily, like doorknobs, tables, countertops, phones and more
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