Did you know that your annual flu shot only lasts for 6-12 months? In Australia, peak flu season is from August to September, so timing your flu shot is essential for ensuring you’re covered for the right part of the year. But why do we need the flu vaccine? And how effective is it (spoiler: highly effective) and is it the same vaccine every time?
Professor in Infectious Diseases Epidemiology from Monash University Allen Cheng and Associate Professor, Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, Kristine Macartney of the University of Sydney answer these questions and more in their article published online at The Conversation entitled “Flu vaccine won’t definitely stop you from getting the flu, but it’s more important than you think”. Here are some of the highlights from the article.
So why should you get the flu vaccine? Apart from halving your risk of getting sick, the flu vaccine is especially important for vulnerable people in the community. Professor Cheng and Associate Professor Macartney state “For vulnerable people, the flu can be the difference between being at home with a chronic disease, and being in hospital with complications such as bacterial pneumonia”.
The Australian Government recommends everyone from six months old be vaccinated every year. To help ensure those most at risk are covered, they are offering the 2017 flu vaccine for free to the following groups of people;
- People over the age of 65
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months to five years’ old
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over
- Anyone over six months old with medical conditions such as asthma, lung or heart disease, low immunity or diabetes.
A common myth is that the flu vaccine can give you the flu. In fact, the vaccine is made up parts of the virus, not the live virus, so you can’t catch the flu from the vaccine. The parts included are just enough to trigger your body’s immune response, preparing it in case it encounters the real virus later.
Influenza comes in different strains, with three strains usually circulating each year. They are usually variants of last year’s strains, a fact that allows the World Health Organization (WHO) to recommend what strains should go into this year’s vaccine. Quadrivalent vaccines (containing parts of four strains of the flu virus) increases the vaccines coverage.
When to get vaccinated is as important as getting vaccinated; too soon and it will wear off before you need it, too late and your body won’t be prepared (or you will forget to get it before flu season). It is generally recommended to get the flu jab between April and June, for maximum protection during the Australian flu season.
World Immunization Week runs from 24-30 April 2017. Follow along for more interesting facts and stories by searching #vaccineswork on social media or visiting the World Health Organization website for more information.