It is the time of the year when those three little letters F L U cause big worries! Currently the CDC is estimating hospitalizations for the 2018-2019 flu season to be the lowest since the 2010-2011 flu season which is a hopeful sign of a manageable flu season. The weekly surveillance report Fluview offers the latest health updates for the current flu season.
How Effective Is This Year’s Flu Vaccine?
It may seem a distant memory, but not distant if you have every contracted the flu. The 2014-15 flu season was particularly troublesome as the data for the flu vaccine demonstrates a 19% effectiveness. This was the lowest rate of effectiveness since the 2005-06 flu season. The vaccine effectiveness for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 season was 40%.
The CDC does not predict the length of the flu season, its’ projected severity or the projected effectiveness of the flu vaccine due to the different variables and different strains of flu; but what remains consistent is the vulnerability of young children and adults over 65 to the severity and health complications when contracting the flu. One of the benefits of the flu vaccine is its’ ability to lessen the severity of the flu if contracted and its’ associated symptoms.
Is the Flu Vaccine Live?
Yes and No. The short answer is the flu shot contains an inactive vaccine which is made from the flu strains the shot is created to provide protection.
The nasal spray is a live attenuated vaccine (LAIV) and is made from live/weakened viruses.
Egg based technology is used to manufacture both versions of the flu vaccine and those with egg allergies should follow the CDC guidelines . The guidelines have not changed since the 2016-2017 flu season regarding the allergy observation procedures for those with egg allergies.
How Does The Flu Vaccine Work?
The effectiveness of the influenza vaccine is affected if a mismatch occurs between the flu strains used in the flu vaccine and the virus currently circulating. H3N2 is the main culprit and is a subtype of the influenza A virus, H1N1 flu which is also a prevalent flu strain.
The flu season never receives a warm welcome and the older and youngest populations continue to be the most affected and the hardest hit by the flu. Americans 65 and older and young children 0-4 years of age are the next hardest hit group with a high hospitalization rate.
The mix of strains in the flu vaccine is determined by recommendations by the World Health Organization and the CDC. These recommendations are made in February for the next flu season which begins in December of the same year. The influenza vaccine can be less effective for the current season due to a migration of a strain since the original recommendation the prior winter; vaccinations should occur once per flu season beginning in the Fall.
Why Isn’t The Flu Vaccine Changed If The Vaccine Is Ineffective?
The 2014-15 flu season was particularly rough; as early as March 2014 data was showing the strains in the vaccine did not match approximately 17 percent of the virus strain. By September 2014 the strains in the flu vaccine did not match the virus by 50% for the season.
The severity of the 2014-2015 flu season along with the mismatch of the strains in the flu vaccine did generate an attempt to reformulate the flu vaccine, but only for those in the southern hemisphere. The H3N2 vaccine was adjusted for those living in the southern hemisphere which begins later than the those living in the northern hemisphere.
Unfortunately the lead time needed to manufacture the vaccine did not allow manufacturers sufficient time to adjust the H3N2 vaccine for the northern hemisphere.
How Long Is The Flu Season?
According to the CDC the average length of the flu season is 13 weeks; however, the season can fluctuate each year and last longer, begin earlier or end later depending upon the year. Generally the flu season begins in December and runs through the end of February.
However flu cases have been reported in October with the latest cases of the flu occurring in May; CDC recommends the ideal time for vaccination is by the end of October.
Who Should Be Vaccinated?
While the CDC recommends the flu vaccine be administered by the end of October to citizens six months and older; however, you can be vaccinated well into the flu season. The flu vaccine does not guarantee you will not contract the flu; immunization can lessen the symptoms. The vaccination does take two weeks to take affect as your body builds up immunity.
If you have ever had the flu even a lessening of symptoms would be welcome for a very unwelcome seasonal visitor. An informal poll amongst my circle of friends indicates major thoughts on the flu vaccine:
- I never get the vaccine.
- I don’t want to get the vaccine, but am required to be vaccinated by work/family/caregiving.
- I get the vaccine every year.
- I never get the vaccine, I got the flu, I am getting the vaccine though I’d prefer not to.
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Sandy KS says
The flu shot has always prevented me from getting the flu. I have not had the shot in the last two years. For the past two years come September I have caught the flu. I am getting my flu shot this year.
I have heard of similar circumstances and it takes such a long time to recover. Hope you are on the upswing.
Sandy KS says
Yes, I am fully recovered now. It took a little over 3 weeks to recover completely.
Bill Kasman says
I have had exactly the opposite experience to yours! Each year I have had a ‘flu shot I have come down with something resembling the ‘flu which includes a really, really bad cough and can take 2-3 weeks to go away. For the past two years I haven’t had a ‘flu shot and I’ve been healthy all winter with no sign of anything!
Rex Trulove says
It takes over 6 months to make flu vaccine and they have no idea which few strains out of many will be the ones that hit, so it is hit and miss. Sometimes they get lucky. Sometimes they don’t and when they don’t, there isn’t much they can do about it because it takes so long to make the vaccine.
Very true, if the mix is wrong for the current season, there is not enough time to remix the vaccine for the current season.
Andria Perry says
I take a shot every year because of Asthma, but I heard on the news they may have one that its only one shot, and never have to have another.
This year fall of 2016 I got the flu shot and exactly 10 days later I had the flu…why did this happen, I was told that the vaccine does not protect you from all strains of the flu…I was sick for 28 days. Will I get the flu vaccine next year…I don’t think so.
My dad got a flu shot every year, and every year I watched the shot itself make him sick. I’ve never gotten the shot, and don’t plan to in the immediate future.
Since I work retail surrounded by the masses I’m rising contracting the virus BUT it sounds like the shot is 50/50 at best in preventing it anyway.
Great post. I know I and many people have wondered why some years the vaccine works and others it is completely ineffective. Very informative.
Thanks – let’s hope this years’ mix is an effective one!
Barbara Radisalvjeivc says
I used to get it, but don’t like getting all the mercury in my body that’s in the vacine. I haven’t gotten the shot for at least five years. I take supplements to keep my immune system strong and usually don’t get any viruses. When I do I can usually knock them flat in a couple of days of care. Last year was an exception. I did get it and it did last a while, but I didn’t have a severe case. I still think building the immune system up is the best defense for me.
I used to never get the vaccine, but always ended up with the flu. I finally broke down, conquered my fear of needles, and got one when we started trying for a baby because there was no way I was going to be pregnant with the flu (plus I knew that would come with more needles, so better get used to it!). That year I did get the flu, BUT it lasted only 3 days compared to my miserable 2 weeks I used to get. I got the flu shot when I was pregnant, and did NOT get the flu, so I will be getting the flu shot from now on as even if you do get the flu, symptoms are way less and go away way faster.