With a new flu season upon us, flu vaccines are available at doctors’ offices, clinics, and pharmacies all around the country. Many people have already gotten the shot, but there are some who might still hesitate after last year’s news-worthy cases of influenza. To give our community an update on this year’s flu season, Texarkana Emergency Center wants to inform everyone who is still on the fence of the importance of seasonal flu vaccines and discuss how these vaccines have only grown more effective over time.
The Basics of Flu Vaccines
Every year we see the signs, read the news reports, and sometimes even see commercials on TV about flu shots. It comes like clockwork around September, and while many of us got flu shots at the pediatrician’s office when we were growing up, adults sometimes wonder if they really need a flu shot every year.
When it comes to the flu, the answer is almost always yes. Getting a shot every year is the best protection against the flu, because each new flu shot is made to fight the flu even better than the last. The way the shot works is to strengthen your body and encourage the growth of new antibodies that will be able to fight off the flu and keep your body safe from infection. But getting one flu shot does not mean that you will be safe from every single flu virus.
The influenza virus is a disease which adapts and evolves every year to infect people in new ways. This means that getting a flu shot one year will not necessarily protect you from next year’s flu virus, or the year after. This is what many people saw in last year’s especially severe flu season.
The 2017 Flu
Last year, families around the country were shaken by the flu. Many people were infected with a severe flu virus, and even those who had gotten their annual vaccine were getting sick. It has made many people question the flu vaccine and whether or not it is worth it to get a vaccine. Now, one year later and with plenty of data on their hands, the CDC has been able to examine last year’s flu and this year’s flu to see what happened and why the vaccine was less effective last year than it is this year.
Since we already know that the flu virus changes every year, doctors developing new flu vaccines are tasked with predicting how exactly the virus will change. Most of the time, they are able to predict correctly with the use of modern medical technology, but last year the flu virus changed in a way that no one saw coming. While this did not make last year’s flu vaccine useless, it did make it less effective, which led to more people getting sick.
This year, though, the flu vaccine is even stronger than before. Scientists have adapted the new vaccine to fight off infections that look like last year’s virus, as well as the most recent anticipated adaptations of influenza.
The Benefits of the Flu Vaccine
Aside from the obvious prevention of flu, annual flu shots also offer extra strength for your body’s natural immune system. Studies at the CDC have shown that the flu vaccine will not only boost your body’s ability to fight future flu-like infections, but it can shorten the duration of the flu if you get sick with it. To many, this might sound strange, since the flu shot is supposed to prevent the flu entirely, but there are some occasions when vaccinated people still get sick, even when doctors have correctly predicted the flu virus for the current year.
The way flu vaccines operate is that after getting it, your body has a 2-week window in which it is building up new antibodies against the flu. This is the time when your body is building its proverbial defenses, like knights preparing for a siege battle. That 2-week window is also when your body could still contract the flu, though, since your body’s defenses have not be fully fortified yet. In these cases, some people who get the flu vaccine can still get sick from the flu, but since their body was already producing the antibodies needed to keep the flu at bay, these people have a much easier time getting better. Their illness is usually not as severe as those who do not get vaccinated, and they often recover much faster.
This 2-week window is why many doctors recommend getting flu shots early, especially for children and elderly family members who might be more vulnerable to new infections. The quicker you get your shot, the quicker your body will make the antibodies it needs to keep you safe.
So far, the new flu season is not as severe as last year, which is reassuring for many. This does not mean that anyone should slack on getting their flu shots, though. Every year, the flu causes severe infections and could lead to hospitalization and emergency care. At times like these, Texarkana Emergency Center is here for our local community. Our staff of highly trained doctors and nurses are available 24/7 with concierge-level care to help your family fight off any winter time infections.
Nutex Health, Inc. supports you and your family’s health. Come visit Texarkana Emergency Center or any one of our concierge-level freestanding facilities for the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.