We still have a well-known “certainty” that we face every fall and winter: The Influenza virus.
Influenza (aka flu) spreads via respiratory droplets. We have several ways of mitigating the spread of infections such as good hand hygiene, coughing into one’s elbow, mask wearing, social distancing and staying home and isolating if sick. There are even medications that can be given in the event of active infection. However, most are not truly “curative” and are therefore only prescribed to alleviate symptoms. CDC estimates that from the most recent flu season statistics 2018/2019 there were 46,000 hospitalizations due to flu for those 18 and under.
The Flu Vaccine Saves Lives
Thankfully, we have a vaccine for the Influenza virus, and it is effective in preventing the spread of and severe sickness from the flu. It is not 100% perfect; however, it gives a level of protection that no other therapeutic medication or change in behavior can give.
Simply put, the flu vaccine saves lives! It is estimated that in the worst of flu seasons the flu vaccine could save up to 61,000 lives if 40% of the population receives the vaccine at only 20% effectiveness.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I have to get a flu vaccine every year?
Influenza virus mutates heavily from season to season and therefore is very good at getting past our body’s immune defenses. The flu vaccine changes from year to year to account for these mutations. Additionally, whether we have antibodies from a vaccine or from active infection, our immune response only lasts for about 3-6 months. There are also generally four different flu strains that circulate every year, so even if you catch one strain you could still catch any of the other three.
What are the side effects from the flu vaccine?
The most common side effect from any vaccine is a soreness around the injection site. This usually goes away within a few hours to a day. Other side effects such as headache, low grade fever can occur as well. Before any vaccine is administered, the medical professional should obtain a targeted history assessing for any avoidable potential complications.
Should everyone get the flu vaccine?
Most people, 6 months of age and older, can safely receive the flu vaccine. Those who should not are those with past severe allergic reaction to flu vaccine. If you are uncertain if the flu vaccine is safe for you or right for you, contact your doctor’s office and ask.