Each year, from October to May, influenza runs rampant throughout the country. Sickness causes children to miss school, adults to miss work and can lead to serious health complications. But, there is one step that you can take to help prevent this sickness for your family, and that’s getting a flu vaccine.
Why get vaccinated?
Influenza is a contagious viral infection that can cause serious side effects or death. It is much worse than the common winter cold. Each year, the flu season is different, and each influenza strain can affect each person in a different way. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people will be hospitalized, and a percentage of them will die from flu-related causes. The best way to prevent the flu is by receiving a seasonal flu vaccine.
How do vaccines work?
All vaccines work in the same way, by causing antibodies to develop in the body. In the case of the flu vaccine, these antibodies take about two weeks to develop. Upon development, these antibodies provide protection from the flu virus. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the flu strains that research has indicated will be the most prevalent during the upcoming season. Traditionally, “trivalent” vaccines are distributed, which are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus.
The main reason to get the flu vaccine is to prevent the flu. During the 2016-2017 flu season, the flu vaccine prevented over 5 million flu cases, over 2 million flu-related medical visits, and about 85,000 flu-related hospitalizations. In seasons where the flu vaccine matches the circulating virus, the flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with flu by 40 percent to 60 percent.
A 2014 study found that children who were vaccinated against the flu were 74% less likely to be admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). A 2018 study has shown that the flu vaccine reduced the risk of adults being admitted to the ICU for flu-related illness by 82%.
For those with chronic health conditions, the flu vaccine has been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events, especially in those who had a cardiac event within the last year. Additionally, several studies have shown that in addition to helping to protect pregnant women, a flu vaccine given during pregnancy helps protect the baby from flu infection for several months after birth, when he or she is not old enough to be vaccinated.
Who should get vaccinated?
The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months receive a flu vaccine. There are a variety of vaccines available, and each person should get the one that is appropriate for their age. Your healthcare provider can help you determine the best fit.
Pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions should receive the flu vaccine according to the CDC. The only people who should not receive a flu vaccine are those with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine. This might include gelatin, antibiotics, or other ingredients. Learn more about these allergies here.
When should I get vaccinated?
As the antibodies take about two weeks to build up, it is recommended that you get a flu vaccine by the end of October, before flu season begins. If you missed this window, a later vaccination can still be beneficial, even into January or later.
Where can I get vaccinated?
Flu vaccines are offered at most health clinics and pharmacies. They are available at our facility with no appointment necessary, during all business hours.