What are Flu vaccines?
Flu vaccines or Influenza vaccines are vaccines that protect you against infection by influenza viruses. New versions of the vaccines are developed every year, as the flu virus mutates rapidly.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and above (with a few exceptions) should have a flu vaccine every year. Vaccination is the best way to avoid getting flu infection and spreading it to others.
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, taking measures to decrease the spread of respiratory illnesses, such as flu, is more important than ever.
How well does the flu vaccine work?
How well the flu vaccine works (or its ability to prevent flu illness) can vary from season to season. The vaccine’s effectiveness also can vary depending on who getting the vaccination. At least two factors play a significant role in determining the possibility of the flu vaccine protecting a person from flu illness:
· Characteristics of an individual being vaccinated (like his/her age and health),
· The “match” or similarity between the flu viruses. The flu vaccine is designed to protect against flu viruses spreading in the community. During years when the flu vaccine is not well matched to circulating influenza viruses, it is possible that little, or no benefit from flu vaccination may be observed.
What are the benefits of Flu Vaccine?
As per the CDC, receiving flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent yourself from getting sick with flu.
1. Feeling less sick
It is still possible to get the flu after vaccination, But if you do get ill, your symptoms may be much milder if you have had the flu vaccination.
2. Protection within the community
When you protect yourself against flu through vaccination, you are also protecting people who cannot get vaccinated, from catching flu. This includes people who are too young to get vaccinated.
3. Lower risk of hospitalizations or complications for certain people
Flu vaccinations have shown to lead to a lower risk of flu-related complications or hospitalizations in certain groups that include:
- Pregnant women and their babies
- Older adults
- People with chronic conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic lung disease
4. Helps protect women during and after pregnancy
Flu Vaccination cuts the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by almost one-half. A study conducted in 2018 which included flu seasons from 2010-2016 revealed that getting flu vaccination reduced pregnant woman’s risk of a getting hospitalized with flu by an average of 40 per cent.
Numerous studies have revealed that apart from helping to protect pregnant women, flu shot administered during pregnancy helps protect the baby from flu for several months after birth, when he/she is not old enough to get flu vaccinated.
What will be the impact of the disease if Flu Vaccine is not taken?
If you do not take the flu vaccine , you may develop serious complications like pneumonia if you get the flu infection. Vaccination helps in minimizing the impact of the disease, if you do get it. In addition, if you do not get the flu, you cannot pass it on. So, by getting yourself vaccinated, you will help keep other people from getting sick—including those who may become seriously sick or die from flu complications.
Who can and who cannot take Flu Vaccinations?
Different flu vaccines are approved for people of different age groups. Besides, some vaccines are not advised for certain groups. Factors that can determine an individual’s suitability for vaccination include age, current and past health and any allergies to flu shots or its components.
People who can get the flu shot include:
1. Different flu shots are approved for use for different people of different ages. Everyone needs to get flu vaccine that is appropriate for their age. 2. Pregnant women including those with some chronic health conditions can get flu vaccine.
2. A majority of people with egg allergy can also get a flu shot.
People who should not get the flu shot include:
1. Children below 6 months are too young to get flu vaccine.
2. People with serious, life-threatening allergies to any ingredient in the vaccine .
How can Flu Vaccine help?
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in our body in about 1 to 2 weeks after the immunization. These antibodies offer protection against infection from the strains of the influenza viruses that are used to develop the vaccine.
How is the Flu Vaccine administered?
· A Nasal spray: Nasal spray contains live viruses which have been weakened, and therefore, are not harmful. Nasal spray vaccinations are approved for people aged 2 to 49 years only
· An injection: The injection contains tiny amounts of de-activated, and therefore not harmful, flu viruses.
Precautions to be taken before and after vaccination
1. Before vaccination, check your earlier vaccination record so that your doctor knows whether you need a shot now. Talk to your doctor before getting vaccinated. Some people may need to wait or may not be able to get flu shot. Inform your doctor if you:
a. Are sick
b. Have any allergies
c. Are pregnant or planning to get pregnant
d. Have had severe side effects from a vaccine in the past
2. Stay calm while you are getting vaccinated. If you are feeling nervous about getting a shot, try the following tips to stay relaxed:
· Avoid looking at the syringe
· Take deep breaths
· Relax your muscles (this will make the shot less painful)
3. After your vaccination: Although many people do not have any severe side effects from vaccines, the most common, usually mild, side effects include:
· Mild fever
· Fatigue (feeling tired)
· Swelling, pain, or redness where the injection was given
· Muscle and joint aches
Steps to help feel better if you have mild side-effects include:
· Drinking lots of fluids.
· Putting a cool, wet washcloth on places where you have soreness
· If your arm is sore after getting the injection, try to move your arm around. This can help with pain, as well as swelling
· You can take a non-aspirin pain reliever, after checking with your doctor.
Although it is very unlikely that you may experience severe side effects, if you have any symptoms that may concern you after you get vaccinated, call your doctor immediately.
For how long will Flu vaccine be effective?
Your body’s immunity to the flu decreases over time whether you have had a flu shot or a flu infection. Besides, flu viruses are constantly mutating (changing). Owing to this, a vaccine from the earlier flu season may not protect you through the upcoming flu season.
Normally, flu vaccination offers protection against the flu for approximately 6 months. That’s why, a person should get a flu shot every year.
Do I need another Flu shot, if so when?
The present guidelines by the CDC recommends yearly vaccination against flu for everyone older than 6 months of age, including pregnant women. Talk to your doctor to find out if you currently need a Flu shot
What are the side effects of flu vaccine?
There may be mild and temporary side effects that could be linked to a flu shot or a nasal spray flu vaccination. These side effects are mild compared to symptoms of a case of flu.
Few minor side effects that may occur from a flu shot include:
2. Headache (low grade)
4. Swelling, soreness and/or redness where the shot was given
5. Muscle aches
The viruses in the nasal spray vaccine are weakened and do not cause severe symptoms. Side effects from the nasal spray in children may include:
2. Runny nose
5. Muscle aches
6. Fever (low grade)
Side effects from the nasal spray vaccine in adults, may include:
2. Runny nose
3. Sore throat
In case of any side effect what should I do?
Mild side effects like soreness at the injection site and other mild side effects mentioned above typically resolve on their own without treatment. You should contact your doctor or the health care provider immediately in case of any serious side effects.
Is it safe to take Flu Vaccine during this pandemic?
Yes, it is absolutely safe to take Flu Vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both flu and COVID-19 infection are completely separate. However, while going to get a flu shot, practice recommended preventive actions like wearing a mask, ensuring physical distancing, etc.
Myths associated with this vaccine
|You can catch flu from the vaccine||Flu vaccine is developed from an inactivated virus that cannot transmit infection. Therefore, those who get sick after receiving a flu shot were going to get sick anyway. It takes at least one or two weeks to get protection from the vaccine. However, people assume that since they got sick after getting flu shot, the vaccination caused their illness|
|Healthy people do not require vaccination||While it is particularly important for those with a chronic illness to get flu vaccination, anyone — even healthy people can benefit from being vaccinated. The present guidelines by the CDC recommends yearly vaccination against flu for everyone older than 6 months of age, including pregnant women.|
|You cannot spread flu if you are feeling well||In fact, 20 to 30 percent people carrying the flu virus have no symptoms.|
|You do not need a flu shot every year||The flu virus mutates (changes) every year. So, getting flu vaccination every year is important to ensure you have immunity to the strains that may cause an outbreak.|
|You can get infected with flu from going out in cold weather with wet hair, without warm clothes, or by sitting near an open or drafty window||The only way to get infected with flu is by being exposed to the flu virus. It’s just that flu season coincides with the cold weather. So, people often link flu with a cold or chilly environment. But cold weather and flu are not related|
|Chicken soup can help speed recovery from the flu||Hot liquids can only soothe a sore throat and offer the much needed fluids. But chicken soup does not have any other specific qualities that can help fight the flu.|
|If you suffer from a high fever with the flu that lasts more than a day or two, antibiotics may become necessary||Antibiotics work against bacteria very well, but they are not effective for a viral infection like flu. However, some people with flu may develop bacterial infection as a complication of the disease.|
Some interesting facts on this vaccine
1. The word influenza (Flu) is the Italian word for ‘Influence’.
2. Hippocrates, called the ‘Father of Modern Medicine’, was the first person who described the symptoms of flu clearly and accurately.
3. There have been four major flu epidemics, the Asian Flu, Spanish Flu, Hong-Kong Flu, and the most recent Swine Flu, in the last century
4. The flu virus can survive on surfaces between 2 and 8 hours
5. There are three different flu viruses — Influenza A, B, and C. The most severe of the three is Influenza A which causes outbreaks in birds and humans, while Influenza B, exclusively found in humans, mutates much slower and Influenza C, less common than the other two, infects humans, pigs and dogs
6. During Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 , doctors prescribed strage remedies like:
a) Shots of whiskey
b) No alcohol at all
c) Eating and bathing in onions
d) Opening chest to remove blood and pus from lung area