Why do I need a flu shot?
The best answer to this question is that the influenza vaccine is the only way to protect yourself from getting the influenza virus. Last year (2017-2018) influenza season was one of the deadliest in recent years. Influenza causes the most deaths in the very young (less than 5 years old), the very old (greater than 65 years old), and those with compromised immune systems (i.e. cancer patients). It is best to get the influenza vaccine well before season starts because it takes about two weeks for the body to build immunity against the influenza virus. The Center for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the influenza vaccine to all eligible patients older than 6 months before the end of October. We use thimerosal free vaccines in our office.
When I get the flu shot I always get sick.
This is largely dependent on the timing of when you receive your flu vaccine. If you receive your flu vaccine by the time the virus in endemic (flu season), then you may be exposed to the virus before your body has adequate time to build immunity. The vaccine works to produce immunity by introducing your cells to a small amount of the influenza virus. Therefore, side effects may occur such as low grade fever, body aches, low energy, runny nose, and pain/redness/swelling around the injection site. However, these side effects only last for 48 hours and are much milder than the actual influenza virus.
If I got the flu shot last year, why do I need another one?
Influenza vaccines are recommended yearly because the virus changes and mutates from year to year. This year there are four strains in the vaccine. One of the two A strains was updated and both B strains were updated. Last year there was a poor match for one A strain (H3N2), which has been added to the vaccine this year. For eligible patients, FluMist, nasal spray, vaccine will be available this year.
Do I still need to get a flu shot if it doesn’t work?
Yes because while it may not work for one of the four strains, you are better protected against strains that do have a good match for the influenza season. If you were to be exposed to the influenza virus 2 weeks or more after getting the vaccine, then your body will have better protection against the virus. So while some cells may become infected with the virus, it won’t be as severe and won’t last as long. Additionally, the risk of complications like pneumonia, ear infections, and sinus infections is reduced if you are vaccinated.
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