Some Important Facts About the Flu Shot

Written by: Azadeh Vasefi

Published on: September 18th, 2018

What is influenza?

Influenza is respiratory disease which can get quite serious. It is caused by influenza viruses (influenza A and B viruses). It is spread via direct contact with contaminated surfaces, as well as respiratory droplets from an infected individual (i.e. sneezing). It, usually, circulates from early November to April. Sometimes, it might be hard to distinguish it from a cold; however, symptoms such as fatigue, fever, headache, and severe muscle pains would be related to flu infection.


What is influenza vaccine?

In general, vaccines can be made from live attenuated or inactivated viruses. Influenza vaccine is available as both forms, and, depending on the person’s condition, one is recommended over the other. Every year, the most prevalent influenza strains expected to be circulating that year are predicated, based on which the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the antigens needed for the flu vaccine. You can get your flu shot from health care providers including your pharmacists. After receiving the vaccination, the immune system makes antibodies to protect the individual against the virus. Normally, it takes about 7 days for the vaccine to kick-in from the time it gets administered, so taking general precautions during this time such as regular hand washing is still recommended. Usually, the influenza vaccine is pretty well tolerated, with minimal soreness and pain at the injection site, but it will give the immunity against the nasty flu virus. However similar to other medications, it might cause allergic reaction in some individuals.


Why do we need a flu shot every year?

The flu virus is a smart bug that changes its strain every year which is why every year we need to be vaccinated against flu. The immunity against the flu lasts about 12 months. Generally, the flu vaccine is about 60–80% effective in preventing influenza in healthy children and adults. It is recommended for the elderly since it lowers the rates for hospital admissions, cases of pneumonia, and mortality. It is especially recommended for high risk patients such as those with respiratory or heart disease, and pregnant women, as well as people such as health care providers who are capable of transmitting the flu virus to those at high risk.

In the larger view, one can consider the concept of “Herd immunity” which means that when most of people in the community get vaccinated, that community as a whole would have better coverage against flu virus compared to a community that did not get vaccinated.

In knowing more about the influenza vaccine, we can better decide about our own health and our children. If you have any further questions, you can direct them to your health care provider.

Influenza Immunization Guide for Pharmacists.” Canadian Pharmacists Association, 03 Jan. 2017.


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