Flu Vaccine Effectiveness

10 October 2016

Who should get vaccinated? Is it safe? Most importantly, is it even effective? The most commonly administered vaccine in the United States is used to combat influenza in its various forms. There are four main types of flu vaccines. The most common, the traditional shot, is injected into the muscle. This differs from the intradermal shot, which is only skin deep. Then, there is also a high-dose variant made specifically for seniors above the age of 65. Last, but not least, is the nasal-spray version of the vaccine.

These variations have been developed for different age groups that range from two years in age, up to, and exceeding, 65. But how does the vaccine work? Once injected with the vaccine, the body goes to work creating anti-bodies to fight off the milder flu infection. Due to the high number of strains, research is conducted each year to determine which strains are expected to be the most prevalent. These strains are then placed in the vaccines and administered to patient’s nation wide. As with all medicines, there are side effects that accompany these vaccines.

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Soreness or swelling of the arm in which the dose is given is the most common, yet least serious of the side effects. Vaccines have also been shown to cause cold-like symptoms, sniffles, headaches and in some cases even fevers. It is sometimes also reported that individuals become ill with the flu after receiving their vaccines. This has led to a belief that the vaccines actually cause the illness, but studies have shown that this assertion is false. Others, however, are not convinced. One such “victim” is Julia Holbrook.

She routinely received the vaccine, along with her husband and two children. Then, in 2011, after received her annual dose, she suffered from a severe case of vertigo. After returning to the doctors, she was advised not to get flu shots for a few years. Holbrook says her days of flu shots may be over completely. “I’m never going to get one again, especially knowing that you only have a 50-50 shot, and yet there are these other side effects that no one ever talks about,” said Holbrook. Who should be concerned with getting these flu vaccines?

According to the Center for Disease Control, or CDC, everyone above 6 months in age should receive annual influenza vaccinations. However, there are specific demographics that are at higher risk of flu related complications. These include children from 6 months to 18 years in age, individuals older than 50, women who may be pregnant during flu season, those living in nursing homes and people with chronic heart or lung conditions. With all the trouble associated with flu vaccinations, is it even worth the trouble?

How effective are they, really? Well, the flu’s effectiveness can be attributed to several factors. The first factor is the characteristics of the individual. Certain attributes, such as age and health, certainly play a part in the effectiveness. Another vital component in the effectiveness is the aforementioned strain research. If a strain begins spreading that was not accounted for in the vaccine doses, it renders the vaccine ineffective. During years in which the strains were not well “matched” little to no benefit can be observed.

Such was the case this past year, when a widespread influenza epidemic struck the nation. The strain was unaccounted for and resulted in the most flu deaths in a decade. The map below shows the widespread virus infection across the nation. In Indiana alone 61 people have died. Of those 61, 26 had their flu shots. Still, doctors caution everyone to get vaccinated, claiming that although the vaccine may not completely prevent an infection, it can weaken the effects of one.

They warn not to abandon vaccines in general, cautioning that this was only a mild flu season, and the situation could become more dire if the population begins abandoning flu shots altogether. Pamela Pontones, who is a state epidemiologist for the Indiana State Department of Health, warns “there’s another way to look at this … you’re still preventing infections,” she claims. “What is important for folks to remember is that vaccination is still a very powerful weapon in our arsenal against infection. I guess we’ll just have to take their word for it. Works Cited “Vaccine Effectiveness – How Well Does the Flu Vaccine Work? ” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2013. Rudavsky, Shari. “Will Less-effective Flu Vaccine Keep Hoosiers from Getting a Shot next Year? ” Indianapolis Star. N. p. , 01 Mar. 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2013. Smith, Michael W. “Learn About Flu Shot — the Influenza Vaccine — and Its Side Effects. ” WebMD. WebMD, 19 Aug. 2011. Web. 03 Mar. 2013.

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