Getting A Flu Shot Is Your Key To Avoiding Influenza And Potentially Serious Complications
Pegasus home healthcare professionals in Granada Hills and elsewhere urge you to get a flu shot. We understand that you may have heard conflicting information about getting vaccinated. Our experts have sorted through the data and collected these facts for you.
Influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is a viral infection. The virus has hundreds of variations, or strains. Scientists group the viruses into three categories: A, B, and C.
Influenza C and B strains are transmitted only from human to human. Both cause relatively mild flu symptoms. B has several variations and is potentially more dangerous than C.
Influenza A is the deadliest influenza virus. It is divided into subtypes designated by the letters H and N. The designations refer to the kind and number of proteins in the virus.
Strains of H1N1, H2N2, and H3N2 are the culprits responsible for most human flu cases. The other subtypes of A primarily affect animals and birds. The B and C influenza viruses don’t affect animals.
Influenza Viruses Frequently Mutate Into New Strains
Viruses mutate, or change into new strains frequently, making it impossible to develop a single vaccine that protects against influenza. Every year researchers predict mutations. Then they work to develop vaccines against them.
If their predictions are accurate, the vaccines prevent the flu. If inaccurate, the vaccines don’t provide full protection.
You might think that having the flu is nothing to worry about. For some people, it’s not much more than an inconvenience. However, it can lead to serious complications for others.
As individuals age, their immune systems become weaker. They are less able to resist illness or recover from influenza. They also are at high risk for complications such as:
- Inflammation of the brain, heart, or muscles
- Worsening of chronic conditions like asthma
The complications are the primary reason for getting flu shots, as some are life-threatening.
Vaccines Stimulate Your Body’s Defenses
Your body protects against infection by making substances called antibodies. Vaccines stimulate the body to produce specific antibodies.
It takes about two weeks after the vaccination to produce the antibodies needed to defend against influenza. That’s why experts recommend getting your flu shot ahead of the flu season. If you’re exposed to the virus, your body is prepared to immediately fight it.
Influenza vaccines are currently manufactured in one of three ways:
- Egg-based – viruses are injected into chicken eggs and allowed to reproduce. The process requires large numbers of fertilized eggs and takes time.
- Cell-based – the viruses are injected into cultured animal cells. The process has been approved since 2016 and takes less time to produce vaccine.
- Recombinant – the process “combines” genes from naturally occurring virus vaccines with genes from another virus that will grow in insect cells. It’s the fastest method of producing vaccine and has been approved since 2013.
Vaccines produced by all three methods are available in the U.S.
The influenza virus is inactivated (killed) in vaccinations given by injection. The nasal spray contains attenuated vaccine, which is live virus that has been weakened. Some inactivated vaccines contain the preservative thimerosal.
Some vaccines contain an adjuvant. Adjuvants are additives designed to stimulate a greater immune system response.
High-dose influenza vaccine contains four times as much of the substance that produces antibodies. It also provides a greater immune system stimulus.
Trivalent vaccines protect against two kinds of influenza A strains and one influenza B strain. Quadrivalent vaccines add protection against a second B strain.
You Have Choices
Vaccines approved for the 2018-2019 flu season include:
- Nasal spray: attenuated quadrivalent formula. Recommended only for individuals aged two years to 49 years old. The brand name is FluMist.
- Standard dose: all but one are egg-based inactivated quadrivalent. The exception is a cell-based quadrivalent. Brand names include Afluria Quadrivalent, Fluarix Quadrivalent, FluLaval Quadrivalent, and Fluzone Quadrivalent, among others.
- High-dose: egg-based inactivated trivalent. High-dose influenza vaccine is recommended only for adults 65 years old and older. The brand name is Fluzone High-Dose.
- Adjuvanted: egg-based inactivated trivalent. The adjuvant is MF59, which is an oil-in-water emulsion. Adjuvanted influenza vaccine is recommended only for adults 65 years old and older. The brand name is Fluad.
- Recombinant: quadrivalent vaccine recommended for individuals 18 years or older. The brand name is Flublok Quadrivalent.
The multi-dose versions of Afluria, FluLaval, Flucelvax, and Fluzone contain thimerosal. The single-dose vaccines are preservative-free.
The declining ability of aging immune systems to fight illness is an essential reason to get your flu shot. The second important reason is the risk of serious complications from influenza. But there’s a third reason that you may not have considered.
Influenza is highly contagious. The flu is as dangerous to children as it is to older adults. You can avoid exposing your grandchildren to serious illness when you get immunized.
Influenza vaccine and your flu shot protect you and those you love. The home healthcare specialists in Granada Hills and our other Pegasus locations want to keep you healthy. We urge you to get your shot, but we are here for you even if you don’t.