10 Oct Influenza and the Importance of Flu Vaccines
Flu season is upon us, and while the CDC and the WHO recommend routine annual influenza vaccinations for all persons ages six months and older, there are still some questions surrounding the vaccine, its importance and efficacy. Allow us to answer one of the most common questions about flu vaccines and tell you how they work.
Can the Flu Shot Give You the Flu?
A common misconception many people seem to have is that they contracted the flu from their vaccine. We are happy to dispel this myth by telling you that studies have shown flu vaccines do not cause flu illness. The vaccines which are expected to be administered during the 2018-2019 flu season come in three forms: Inactivated influenza vaccines (IIVs), recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV), and live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV). With each of these formulas, the flu virus is either made with an “inactivated” (dead) gene, an incomplete gene that cannot spread, or a weakened version of the virus that also cannot spread. There are, however, several alternative explanations for why a person might feel sick or contract an illness shortly after receiving the flu shot. Some can include: already being sick, or getting ill shortly after receiving the shot by an illness with similar symptoms, such as rotavirus. It is also possible to contract the flu just before, or within the 1-2 week time period it takes for your immune system to respond, causing you to get the flu shortly after receiving your vaccine. Another reason a person might think they’ve contracted the flu from their vaccine is simply because the vaccines created are made specifically for each season, and sometimes, there could be a strain of the virus going around that was not included in that year’s vaccine. All of these scenarios are possible, however in every case, it is simply a correlation, not causation creating this contraction myth.
How Does it Work?
According to the CDC, flu vaccines cause you to form antibodies, which are blood proteins our bodies produce which attach to and counteract antigens, meaning any toxin that induces an immune response. These antibodies develop about 1-2 weeks after receiving the vaccination, and they provide protection from the viruses contained within the vaccine. Each seasonal vaccine is intended to protect against the viruses that research indicates will be the most common. And in talking about effectiveness, there are at least two factors that determine whether the seasonal vaccine will protect against the flu illness. The first is the person receiving the vaccine. We all have varying characteristics that can affect our responses to any form of treatment or vaccine. The second, and most common, determining factor in efficacy is whether or not the vaccines provided actually “match” the viruses that are spreading that season. If there is a good match, vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor for the flu by 40-60 percent!
If you have any additional questions or concerns about influenza, please call our office to schedule with one of our providers, visit the CDC’s website or follow the link below to their recent report on Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines.