WHY SHOULD PEOPLE GET VACCINATED AGAINST THE FLU?
Influenza is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently, but millions of people get the flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu. Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death in children.
HOW DO FLU VACCINES WORK?
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Traditional flu vaccines (called “trivalent” vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. There are also flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines). These vaccines protect against the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine and an additional B virus.
WHO SHOULD GET VACCINATED THIS SEASON?
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get an influenza (flu) vaccine every season with rare exceptions. CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has made this recommendation since the 2010-11 influenza season.
Vaccination to prevent flu is particularly important for people who are at high risk of developing serious flu complications.
WHEN SHOULD I GET VACCINATED?
You should get a flu vaccine before flu viruses begin spreading in your community since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against flu. Make plans to get vaccinated early in fall, before flu season begins. CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.
Getting vaccinated early (for example, in July or August) is likely to be associated with reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season, particularly among older adults.
Children who need two doses of vaccine to be protected should start the vaccination process sooner because the two doses must be given at least four weeks apart.
Flu vaccines are available at all Healthy Connections clinics in Arkansas. Visit www.healthy-connections.org/locations to find the clinic closest to you.
WHY DO I NEED A FLU VACCINE EVERY YEAR?
A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and updated as needed to keep up with changing flu viruses. For the best protection, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually.
DOES FLU VACCINE WORK RIGHT AWAY?
No. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. That’s why it’s better to get vaccinated by the end of October before the flu season really gets underway.