The flu shot is the most effective defense against getting influenza virus and spreading it to others. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone aged 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine every season.
The flu is more dangerous than you might think. Unlike the common cold, it can lead to severe complications like pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections, or even death. Every year, more than 2,000 New Yorkers die of fatal virus cases.
Influenza was especially fierce during 2017-2018 season. The federal health officials reported more than 700,000 influenza related hospitalizations nationally – the highest number ever recorded.
It’s been recognized that children under 5 and adults over 65 are more likely to get life-threatening complications if they fall sick with flu. It’s essential for these age groups to get seasonal vaccination on a regular basis.
Also, it is very important to get the vaccine if you are a health care worker, or if you care for a child or an elderly person. To avoid getting sick or spreading the virus around, caregivers are advised to practice good health habits.
Every season flu vaccination prompts a lot of questions, doubts and debates. In this article we will give answers to the most common inquiries about flu shots to help you make the right decision.
1. What Does the Flu Shot Do?
Flu vaccines stimulate your body to produce antibodies that fight the flu. Antibodies are proteins that can recognize and deactivate viruses in your blood.
How does it work? When a flu virus gets into the body, your immune system is ready to intercept the intruder. Your antibodies latch on to the virus’s antigens and block the flu virus from attaching to a healthy cell.
So, when you come in contact with one or more of the viruses that cause the flu, you’re less likely to catch the infection and develop flu symptoms.
2. When to Get the Flu Vaccination?
There is really no bad time for getting a flu shot – you can get the vaccine pretty much at any time during the year. However, flu viruses are most common in the fall or winter months, reaching peak activity between November and February. Therefore, the best idea is to get vaccinated before the virus starts spreading.
According to CDC, it takes about two weeks after receiving the shot for antibodies that protect against infection to develop in the body, so it’s recommended that you get the vaccine between early September and late October.
But if you forget until Halloween, the CDC assures it can still be beneficial to go for the shot even in January or later.
3. Why Get Vaccinated Each Year?
There are two main reasons why you need to get a flu shot every year:
- Your antibodies wane over time. Though you may have received a flu shot last year, your body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time. Protection from the vaccine is thought to persist for at least 6 months. Thus, when the following flu season breaks out, your body’s immunity to it will likely be close to zero.
- Every year, the flu is different. The virus is constantly changing and mutating. Researchers work hard to determine what types of flu will cause the illness during the upcoming season and then update the vaccine formula accordingly.
By getting a flu shot each year, you are protecting yourself from new strains of flu, while also fortifying your immune system for continuous protection.
4. How Effective Is the Flu Shot?
The effectiveness of the vaccine, or its ability to prevent flu, depends on a couple of factors.
- Firstly, age and health condition of the person being vaccinated is a high dependent for effectiveness. For example, the flu vaccine is most effective in healthy adults with strong immune system. Those who are older have a weaker immunity and often have a lower protective immune response after the vaccination. For this reason, seniors of age 65 and older are recommended to get higher dose flu shots that contain four times as much active ingredient as a regular shot to provide better immunity and protection.
- The second factor is how well the vaccine’s components match those of the flu virus spreading in the community. The better the match, the higher the vaccine effectiveness. However, since flu viruses mutate rapidly, the degree of matching varies from year to year. Typically, when the components are matched well, the vaccine lowers probability of getting down with the flu by between 40% and 60%.
Obviously, the vaccine isn’t 100% effective and getting the one does not guarantee that you won’t get sick. But the vaccine still considerably minimizes your chances to catch the flu and reduces the risk of life-threatening complications in case you do catch it.
5. Where to Get the Flu Shot?
The short answer is everywhere.
First of all, you can get a flu shot at your primary-care doctor, urgent care centers, as well as at your job or college.
Flu vaccines are also offered in pharmacy chains like Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, as well as in grocery store chains – Stop & Shop, Walmart, Kmart and others. All these pharmacies and stores accept most types of health insurance, which means you will get a flu shot for free there.
For those without insurance coverage, the standard flu shot will cost around $30-$40, which is relatively low in comparison to the cost of medicine you will have to buy if you do catch the flu.
You can find the vaccine provider nearest to you at VaccineFinder.org. Just enter your zip code and check the box for flu.
At All Heart Homecare, we recommend that you receive a flu shot every year. Given the fact that the virus spreads easily, it is essential that each member of your household receives the annual shot as well. If you have more questions about seasonal flu vaccination, you can contact us any time by any method available.
Because we care!