Why Do We Need The Flu Vaccine Every Year
Flu vaccines have an excellent safety record. They are the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus which can cause severe illness and deaths each year among at-risk groups. It is important to have a flu vaccine every year because the flu virus is very variable and changes over time. Each year there are different strains around, and a new vaccine has to be prepared to deal with them. Vaccination from previous years is not likely to protect people against current strains of flu.
Each years flu vaccine is made to give the best protection against the strains of flu that are expected to circulate in the coming season. The trivalent vaccine protects against three of the flu virus strains which are most likely to be around. The quadrivalent vaccine protects against four flu virus strains. However, decisions about what to put in the flu vaccine have to be made six months before the flu season starts.
Every February in the Northern Hemisphere, the World Health Organization reviews the types of flu that have been circulating in all parts of the world and chooses the ones which will go into the vaccine for the following autumn. This allows time for the vaccine to be made but it also gives the flu virus time to change before vaccination starts in the autumn. This means that sometimes the flu vaccine may not be a good match for all the strains of flu that are circulating. Read more about the WHO recommendations for the 2022-23 season.
How Effective Was The Flu Shot In 2019
The flu vaccine was 39% effective in reducing the risk of illness during the 2019-20 flu season, according to the CDC. That percentage may seem low, Vyas says, but its still important to get vaccinated.
The more people who receive the vaccine, the better the herd immunity which results, she explains. The immunity from everyone who receives this vaccine in a community protects our most vulnerable persons, those who cannot receive it, including the very young or people whom other factors prevent them from obtaining a flu vaccine.
Okay So What Does All Of This Mean How Effective Is This Year’s Flu Shot
The biggest takeaway here is that this year’s flu shot isn’t a great match for the leading virus out there right now: B/Victoriain fact, it’s the first time in 27 years that an influenza B virus has dominated the flu season so early on.
See, that 58% match essentially means that if you are exposed to the B/Victoria strain of the flu virus, there’s only a 58% chance you’ll be protected from it with the flu shotand there’s a 42% chance that you may still get the flu.
Another issue regarding the flu vaccine and its partial ineffectiveness for B/Victoria? Influenza B viruses typically hit children and young adults harder and can be more severe, sometimes leading to hospitalization for complications, or even death. That’s especially true this year21 of the 32 pediatric deaths during the current season being due to influenza B, per the CDC.
But here’s the thing about the flu vaccine: It doesn’t necessarily give you full protection against the viruseven if it’s a good match. Chances that a vaccine will work for you depends on your age and health, as well as if the vaccine matches the circulating viruses out there during the season, says the CDC. A good match means the antibodies produced by vaccination protect against infection with circulating viruses, the agency explains.
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Why The Shot Matters Especially This Year
Finally, in a year when we are still reeling from the effects of that other highly contagious virus, Dr. Webby urges people who are hesitant to get the flu vaccine to consider their community: We anticipate that taking the flu vaccine will lower your infectiousness for others as well, he explains. So just by taking the flu vaccine you’re reducing the likelihood that you’ll transmit the virus to someone else, whether you’re in a household with someone who’s more susceptible to the severe end of the disease spectrum or even just in general to the rest of the population.
One last reason to get your flu shot, no matter how effective it may be this year? This years flu season may pack an extra punch, says Dr. Webby. Because weve had two seasons of pretty low flu activity here, there is a possibility that as a population, our immunity levels to the flu are lower. During a typical flu season, upwards of 80 percent of the population is exposed to flu, which helps boost their immunity, he explains. Since we skipped that step last year, its possible that when the flu does come back, it will come with a little bit more heat.
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Flu Vaccine Was Not Very Effective This Season The Cdc Says
The vaccine was only about 16 percent effective at reducing a persons chance of getting a mild or moderate infection, the agency said. Experts said a good rate would be at least 50 percent.
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This seasons flu vaccine has offered little to no protection against getting a mild or moderate case of influenza, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week.
In a study of more than 3,600 Americans in seven states, the C.D.C. said in a report that the vaccine was only around 16 percent effective, a rate that it said was not statistically significant.
Its not ineffective, but its clearly suboptimal in its efficacy, Dr. Jesse L. Goodman, a former chief scientist at the Food and Drug Administration, said on Thursday. He reviewed the report but was not associated with it.
Still, despite the vaccines lackluster performance this season, which started in October and lasts through May, the C.D.C. suggested that people get inoculated, saying that it could prevent serious outcomes.
Still, even a mild flu season can be devastating. The C.D.C. estimated that during the 2019-20 flu season, around 22,000 people in the country had died and 400,000 had been hospitalized.
Dr. Goodman said that this seasons results showed how much flu vaccines could be improved.
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Is The Nasal Spray Vaccine As Effective As The Flu Shot
There are several different types of flu vaccines. Many of them are given as an injection. These vaccines contain inactivated flu virus or only single viral proteins.
The nasal spray vaccine is a flu vaccine thats sprayed into your nose. Its made up of virus thats been weakened so it cant establish an infection. Its known as FluMist or the live-attenuated influenza vaccine .
In previous years, the nasal spray vaccine wasnt recommended. The reason for this was because it had less effectiveness in children against certain types of influenza viruses.
However, there have been recent improvements in the manufacturing of this vaccine and some data indicates that the effectiveness of the nasal spray vaccine is now similar to that of the flu shot.
Because of this, the nasal spray vaccine has been recommended since the 20182019 flu season. In fact, the
Previously, we discussed that the effectiveness of the flu vaccine can vary from year to year. Lets take a deeper dive into why this is the case.
When The Flu Vaccine Starts Working
Once you receive your flu shot, it takes 2 weeks for your body to develop antibodies that provide protection.
Its important to remember that during this period, youre still vulnerable to becoming ill with the flu.
During that time, you should be extra careful to:
- practice good hygiene
- avoid touching your nose or mouth whenever possible
- avoid crowds if flu is circulating in your community
These precautions are exponentially more important while COVID-19 is still a factor. You can develop the flu along with other respiratory infections, so protecting yourself and others is important.
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Flu Vaccine Effectiveness For 20212022 Season
Each year, the flu vaccine is designed to protect against the strains of the flu that scientists believe will be most common. However, the effectiveness of the flu vaccine depends on which flu strains are most prevalent and how they compare to the strains that the vaccine protects against.
Because of this, flu vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year. Scientists dont yet have estimates for the effectiveness of the flu vaccine for the 20212022 season. In addition, in the 20202021 flu season the CDC didnt estimate the effectiveness of the vaccine because transmission of the flu was historically low, likely due to COVID-19 precautions that also protect against the flu.
Side Effects And Risks
It is much safer to get the flu vaccine than to get the flu. Flu vaccines are safe and well-tolerated. Side effects are usually mild and last a few days. Common side effects include pain, redness and swelling at the injection site headache, fever, muscle aches, joint pain or feeling tired. Side effects in children include irritability, drowsiness or loss of appetite.
In rare cases, serious allergic reactions can occur. Seek medical attention if you have trouble breathing, rash or swelling of the face and throat. Allergic reactions can be treated and are usually temporary. The risk of Oculo-Respiratory Syndrome or Guillain-Barré Syndrome after flu vaccination is very low, about one case in a million flu shots.
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Why Should You Get The Flu Shot
Even though the flu shot isn’t the most effective vaccine, it still provides some protection against infection, especially for healthy people. And most importantly, even at its modest effectiveness, the flu vaccine helps to protect against the worst effects of a flu infection: hospitalization or death.
A 2021 review published in the journal Vaccine found that adults who got a flu vaccine but still got sick were 26% less likely to require intensive care, and vaccinated patients who ended up in the hospital were 31% less likely to die from the flu, compared with people who were not vaccinated.
The CDC also recommends that people get the flu shot during pregnancy, which changes the immune system, heart and lungs in ways that increase susceptibility to influenza. Between 2010 and 2016, getting a flu shot reduced a pregnant person’s risk of being hospitalized with flu by about 40% compared with unvaccinated pregnant people, according to a 2018 study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases . Other studies cited by the CDC suggest that getting a flu shot during pregnancy can also protect the newborn from catching the flu. Flu vaccines are also important for children. Between 2010 and 2014, flu shots reduced a healthy child’s risk of dying from the flu by 65%, according to a 2017 study in the journal Pediatrics .
Originally published on Live Science.
Who Should Get Vaccinated
Annual vaccination is the most important measure to prevent influenza and its complications.
Vaccination does more than just protect an individual: sufficient vaccination levels across the community can protect members of the community who would otherwise be left vulnerable.
The seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for all Australians aged six months and over.
Its available for free to the population groups most as risk of severe disease from influenza:
- people aged 65 years or over
- children aged six months to under five years
- pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over
- people aged six months or over who have medical conditions that mean they have a higher risk of getting serious disease.
For over-65s, adjuvanted influenza vaccines which include an immune-stimulant to encourage a stronger immune response are recommended over standard influenza vaccine.
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What Are The Possible Side Effects Of The Flu Vaccine
Both types of vaccine can cause mild side effects.
- The flu shot usually is given as an injection in the upper arm or thigh . It contains killed flu virus and can’t cause someone to get the flu. But it can cause soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site. Rarely, it might cause a low fever or body aches.
- The nasal spray flu vaccine contains weakened live flu viruses. So it may cause mild symptoms, such as a runny nose, wheezing, sore throat, vomiting, or tiredness. Like the shot, it can sometimes cause a low fever or body aches.
Sometimes, people faint after getting a shot, especially teens. It helps to sit or lie down for 15 minutes right after a shot to prevent this.
A warm, damp cloth or a heating pad on the injection site may help ease soreness, as can moving or using the arm.
Very rarely, the flu vaccine can cause a serious allergic reaction.
Why Was The Flu Vaccine Less Effective This Season
Flu vaccines are typically developed based on the previous years flu season. However, if flu cases are low that season, it can make the following vaccine strain less effective, Purvi Parikh, MD, allergist and immunologist at NYU Langone Health, told Verywell in an email.
The predominant strain of influenza that is circulating this season is A , but according to health experts, this years strain is a poor match to the vaccine strain, causing the vaccine to be less effective overall.
We had a mild flu season last year so this gave the scientists determining the next vaccine fewer data on which to select the best array of influenza types, Davidson Hamer, MD, professor of global health and medicine at Boston University School of Public Health, told Verywell in an email.
We had another mild flu season this year presumably because of COVID-19 control measuresmasking and social distancingwhich have reduced transmission. This mean’s there is a smaller number of cases on which to assess the vaccines effectiveness, Hamer said.
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Cdc Seasonal Flu Vaccine Effectiveness Studies
CDC conducts studies to measure the benefits of seasonal flu vaccination each flu season to help determine how well flu vaccines are working. These vaccine effectiveness studies regularly assess the value of flu vaccination as a public health intervention. Study results of vaccine effectiveness can vary based on the study design, the outcome measured, the population studied and the season in which the flu vaccine was studied.
U.S. Flu Vaccine Effectiveness Networks
- Baylor Scott and White Health
- Columbia University Irving Medical Center
- Intermountain Healthcare
- Kaiser Permanente Northern California
- Kaiser Permanente Northwest
- Regenstrief Institute
- University of Colorado .
The overall, adjusted vaccine effectiveness estimates for influenza seasons from 2004-2021 are noted in the chart below.
Seasonal Influenza Vaccines Pricing
The Medicare Part B payment allowance limits for seasonal influenza vaccines are 95% of the Average Wholesale Price , as reflected in the published compendia.
In hospital outpatient departments, payment is based on reasonable cost.
Annual Part B deductible and coinsurance amounts dont apply for the influenza virus vaccinations. All physicians, non-physician practitioners, and suppliers who administer these vaccinations must take assignment on the claim for the vaccine.
Annual Influenza Vaccine season starts on August 1 and ends on July 31 of the following year.
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Myth: Ive Actually Heard That Fewer People Will Get The Flu This Year So I Dont Need To Be That Worried
Fact: There is definitely a possibility that there could be fewer cases of the flu this year. The flu is often transmitted via respiratory droplets , just like COVID-19.
COVID-19 prevention measures, such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing have become commonplace, and these could very well help curb the spread of the flu.
However, that does not mean that youre in the clear.
The flu is still very contagious. Just like COVID-19, prevention measures can significantly lower the risk of getting the flu, but they are not 100% effective. Everything you can do, whether its upping your hand-washing game or spending more time at home, adds a layer of protection and the flu shot is the best layer we have.
People At High Risk Of Complications From The Flu
- people with health conditions, such as:
- cancer and other immune compromising conditions
- kidney disease
- neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions
- children up to 18 years of age undergoing treatment for long periods with acetylsalicylic acid
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