With the flu season well underway, there have been reports of concerns about the effectiveness of this year’s flu vaccinations. In some cases, individuals have decided not to be vaccinated due to such information. In other cases, those who have been vaccinated wonder if they are really protected. If you are still in the process of making up your mind, the following considerations may help as you make your decision.
Types of Influenza Viruses
The manufacture of flu shots begins as early as February prior to the flu season in question as the major viruses that have affected the Southern Hemisphere are reviewed to determine those that are most likely to impact the Northern Hemisphere later in the year. Of the three types of influenza viruses, only two, influenza A and B, are found to result in epidemic scenarios. Type C is a third variation but typically results in mild symptoms.
Limitations of a Vaccine
Trivalent vaccines are the most common options available, addressing both H1N1 and H3N2 strains of type A viruses and one strain of type B viruses. Quadrivalent vaccines are also manufactured, addressing two influenza B viruses along with the main influenza A strains. The current season’s vaccines have created a concern because of a drift from the H3N2 strain included in both trivalent and quadrivalent products. Although you may be vaccinated, it is possible to be infected with a different virus than those your immunization included.
Benefits of Being Vaccinated
Although a flu vaccine may protect against infection by certain strains, it may reduce the impact of a strain that is not included in the formulation for the season. Additionally, the vaccine can protect both the individual who is immunized and those with whom that person has frequent contact. Those who would be particularly vulnerable to the severe symptoms of influenza may benefit from reduced potential for a serious illness. These may include:
- Young children
- Elderly individuals
- Those with chronic health issues such as heart or lung disease or diabetes
- Pregnant women and their unborn children
Risks of Being Vaccinated
A flu shot could lead to some discomforts and potential risks for certain individuals. For example, a shot may result in swelling or soreness. However, nasal injections are also available as an alternative and are considered the option of preference for children between two and eight years of age. Some individuals may run a low-grade fever or feel achy after receiving a vaccine. Although rare, severe allergic reactions are possible. These are deemed to be most likely among those who are allergic to eggs because chicken eggs are used in growing the viruses used to manufacture the vaccines. Although some individuals report flu-like symptoms after receiving vaccinations, the flu shot cannot give you the flu due to the fact that it is made with viruses that are not infectious.
The decision to have your flu vaccine may involve the counsel of your healthcare provider so that your specific risks for flu are taken into account. If you do experience the flu or other winter illnesses, your Honest Discounts card may be helpful for cutting costs at the pharmacy as you fill prescriptions for dealing with your symptoms.