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Do You Really Need a Flu Shot?

Nov 01, 2017

Is it really that important to get a flu shot? The answer is yes!

Millions of people get the flu every year. Hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and tens of thousands die from flu-related causes annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

So how does the flu vaccine work?

About two weeks after receiving the vaccination, antibodies start to develop in the body to provide protection against infection. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against influenza viruses that research indicates are likely to be most common in the upcoming season. Traditional flu vaccines (“trivalent” vaccines) protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) viruse, an influenza A (H3N2) viruse and an influenza B viruse.

Who needs a flu shot?

Everyone ages 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year. While anyone can have serious complications from the flu, those at the highest risk include:

  • People over the age of 65
  • Children younger than 2 years
  • Women who are more than 3 months pregnant
  • Anyone living in a long-term care facility
  • Anyone with chronic heart, lung or kidney conditions, diabetes or a weakened immune system

When is the best time to get vaccinated?

Getting vaccinated in the early fall, before the flu starts spreading in your community, provides the most protection from the flu. Getting your vaccination later still is beneficial and will protect against flu-related complications. Children (who need two doses of vaccine to be fully protected) should start the vaccination process sooner because the two doses must be given at least four weeks part.

Why get vaccinated each year?

The body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so receiving an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Flu viruses constantly are changing, so the formulation of the vaccine is reviewed each year and updated to keep up with the changing flu viruses.

There is still a possibility you could get the flu even if vaccinated. But if you do, the illness will not be as bad. Whether you contact the flu depends on many factors, including your age and how closely the viruses used to make the vaccine and those circulating in the community match.  When closely “matched,” the effectiveness of the vaccine is higher. When they don’t, the effectiveness is reduced. It’s important to remember, even if the viruses don’t closely “match,” the vaccine still provides protection from flu-related complications.

For more information on where to get a flu shot, call St. Bernards Healthline at 870.207.7300.