Should I Vaccinate?
posted by Dr. Hall | December 2, 2016
With cold months ahead, it’s time to start thinking about protecting yourself and your loved ones from sickness. As winter rolls in, avoiding bugs like colds, coughs and especially the flu becomes a concern.
Because of how severe the symptoms can be, influenza is at the top of most people’s list this time of year. Over 1 in 20 people in the United States will come down with the flu at some point during flu season, which is roughly defined as the time between October and May. The flu is actually even more common in some years.
One of the first lines of defense against seasonal influenza is the flu vaccine, given yearly to people who chose to use it. It’s a new vaccine every year, created by a panel of doctors and experts based on what they expect the most active flu strains to be during the upcoming flu season. Let’s look at some of the basics on flu vaccines – who needs them, how they work and whether they’re right for you.
The flu vaccine is actually a combination of several dead strains of the flu virus – “trivalent” vaccines contain three dead strains where “quadrivalent” vaccines contain four. These dead strains of flu virus aren’t enough to make you sick, but they do enough make the body create antibodies. These antibodies stay in the immune system for the rest of the flu season, stopping these strains of flu from being able to form in your body. It’s estimated that flu vaccines are effective in about 80 percent of cases.
Generally, there are two delivery systems for the flu vaccine: A shot or a nasal spray. For the 2016-17 flu season, though, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that nasal spray not be used as a flu vaccine.
There are a few specific types of flu shots, typically injected into a muscle in the body. For trivalent vaccines, these include:
For quadrivalent vaccines, there are also a few specific types:
It usually takes about two weeks for vaccine antibodies to grow in the body. For this reason, doctors recommend getting vaccines before October each year so the antibodies have enough time to form. There’s never a bad time if you don’t already have a vaccine, though.
The flu vaccine should not cause a case of the flu – if any symptoms last longer than a day or two after you get the shot, consult your doctor. A few small symptoms do appear for some people, though (some of these are more common with the nasal spray).
Doctors recommend that all people over six months of age receive the seasonal flu shot each year, including healthy adults. There are a few groups of people who are at higher influenza risk, though, and you should be especially careful about getting vaccinated if you’re in one of them. These groups include:
There are a few cases where people should avoid the flu vaccine, but these are rare. They include children under six months old, as well as people who already have a major fever or illness (these people can still receive vaccines, just after they’ve recovered).
If someone has reacted badly to a flu shot in the past, they should consult their doctor about future vaccines. Finally, a couple rare conditions – Guillain-Barre syndrome or chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy – put people at risk if they receive vaccines. If you’re worried you might be at risk, speak to your doctor before receiving any vaccine.
Brandon Hall, MD
Revere Health’s family medical practice in Lehi specializes in weight control, depression management, skin care, hormone replacement, cardiac conditions and cholesterol management, and we strive to provide our patients and their families with quality healthcare services. The number one way to provide safe, effective healthcare is to educate patients and make sure I listen to and understand their story and what they want to get out of their healthcare.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.