Welcome to National Influenza Vaccination Week, established in 2005 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to promote vaccination awareness to the general public. In that spirit, Dr. Sebeen Razzaq-Ahmed and the team here at East Meadow Medical P.C. remind you to get your annual flu vaccine. You may be one of the many people we hear ask why they need to get vaccinated each year. Well, we’re here to answer that for you!
It’s no secret that influenza, commonly called the flu, is inconvenient, nasty, and downright deadly. The 2017-2018 flu season was among the worst on record, afflicting and killing more Americans — about 80,000 — than in any season dating back more than three decades. Because the flu is so common, not to mention so deadly, we always recommend that anyone who’s able to gets an updated vaccine each year.
What is the flu?
Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness that’s caused by the influenza virus. There are two main types of influenza virus: type A and type B. These main types are further subdivided into multiple subtypes and strains, including the well-known H1N1 strain. The effect each of these strains may have on you depends on your age and overall health.
If you have the flu, symptoms may include:
- Sore throat
- Body aches
In more extreme cases, you may experience vomiting and diarrhea. Although symptoms tend to emerge suddenly, you may find yourself experiencing a milder version in the early stages of the virus. It’s also important to note that you may be a carrier for the virus even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms yourself.
Why do I need to get vaccinated every year?
You’ve probably noticed by now that we encourage our patients to get vaccinated each year. Why does this particular vaccine need to be administered again, even if you got a flu shot last year? It’s because new strains of the virus are constantly appearing and evolving, so the vaccine must change along with them.
Located around the world are influenza surveillance centers that annually monitor the most common strains, collecting data and identifying new and evolving strains. Once the information has been collected, the World Health Organization selects the three strains most likely to circulate during the following flu season. This decision is typically made in February, allowing the development of a new vaccine to begin around midsummer.
Because the three strains change each year, the vaccines are formulated separately before they’re combined into the final product, the trivalent vaccine. While it’s usually fairly accurate, there have been instances, such as the infamous H1N1 outbreak in 2009, that required the addition of a second, separate vaccination.
In addition to the constantly evolving strains of the flu virus, your body’s immune response changes over time. Taken together, those two factors essentially render the previous years’ vaccinations useless against new strains. This is why it’s so important to get yourself vaccinated each and every year, even if you got the vaccine last year!
When should I get vaccinated?
The flu season ranges roughly from October-March. Because the flu vaccine takes about two weeks to fully protect you from viral antibodies, we recommend you try to get vaccinated by the end of October. However, if you’ve yet to get your vaccination this year, it’s not too late!
We understand there are many questions about vaccines, especially the flu vaccine, and we always encourage our patients to ask any questions they may have. Call East Meadow Medical P.C. today to schedule your vaccination, or use the online booking tool. It’s important not just for yourself, but also for those around you!