Well, the 2012/2013 Flu vaccination season seems over, though the flu itself is still out there plaguing the public. We gave about 350 Flu Vaccines this flu season, which is a record for our pharmacy. We do have a few doses left, if you didn’t get yours yet. The Flu is still out there and new infections are reported daily, so there remains a certain level of risk as you walk around town.
You may have heard lots of stories about this year’s vaccine. Some of them are sort of partly true. Let me explain:
This year’s mix was considered a very good one: they managed to correctly predict which strains would be out there causing the flu and put together a vaccine that will help you build immunity to those strains and so give you good protection. Some good points to know:
- It’s very hard to make predictions, especially when they’re about the future.
- Because of the vaccine manufacturing process, they have to start making it many many months before the flu season starts, so they build a mix based on their best guess of what will be the problematic strains of influenza.
- Even with a well designed vaccine, there is still a chance that you are one of the few people for whom vaccination does not prevent getting the flu, or for whom it reduces the severity of the flu but doesn’t stop it completely. The estimate is that this year’s mix was about 56% effective overall. Considering that flu is fatal to some people, that’s actually a great result. It will never be 100%.
- A number of things can make that vaccine less effective for you, including age and certain disease states. It is thought that the current flu vaccine, good as it was, is only about 27% effective in preventing flu in seniors 65 & up. 9% for the most virulent H3N2 strain. That’s poor, but still better than no protection.
- An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. (In reality, the flu shot is only 1/60th of an ounce. And there isn’t a great cure for flu at any weight above or below a pound.)
- Besides vaccination, there are two other good ways to prevent the flu: wash your hands regularly and frequently clean shared surfaces with a disinfectant. The other: stay clear of people who have the flu — the best way to reduce your exposure is to reduce their level of infection: make them get a flu shot! The more of us get the flu shot, the less of the disease out there to spread around and so the safer we all are.
- Did the flu shot “give you” the flu? Nope. Remember it takes around 2 weeks for that immunity to build up. So if you fell ill a few days after the shot, it’s likely you already had it cooking in your system or that your exposure happened after the shot but before the immunity had a chance to take effect. Lesson: Get your shot as early in the year as possible! We try to have it available in September.
- Common Myth: “don’t get your shot too early or it could ‘wear off’ too soon.” Nope. Protection lasts almost a full year, so if you could get it as early as August, you’d still be in good shape for the entire flu season. This myth is sometimes circulated by older providers who have not kept up with current research and the current data on modern flu vaccines.
- Most flu infections do NOT require a doctor’s visit. There is no good cure available, but there are some supportive measures you can take to make it tolerable while you wait for the illness to run its course. For more information about flu symptoms and what can help you with symptoms, [Click Here].
Summary: No flu vaccine has a 100% prevention rate. This year’s was a good batch and prevented a lot of flu cases, but not all. If we’d had a lousy batch this year, there could have been epidemic levels of infection and perhaps many more deaths. The flu is virulent and dangerous and to skip your flu shot is unwise.