Did you ever think, before 2020, that we will be living in a world where we will be well-versed with medical terms and have a sound knowledge of vaccines and medicines? I did not! I knew about the basic paracetamol and some antibiotics, but that was my limited knowledge. With so much news and speculation around the covid-19 vaccine, I decided to dive a little deeper. I came across some amazing historic facts, studies and also found answers to the question – how does a flu shot work?
While growing up, the concept of vaccination was pretty simple – you get a shot and the body’s immune system is boosted. That is essentially how any shot works. But how important is it to get vaccinated to be protected from something like the flu?
What is flu?
As the pandemic of 2020 set in, I was curious to know about the other recent pandemics in the world. The pandemic flu (or the Spanish flu) was caused by the influenza viruses, which also causes the seasonal flu. Surprisingly, the Spanish flu followed a graph that is similar to India’s covid-19 graph.
So, while a lot of my discussions with my circle of friends led to the conclusion that Spanish flu and seasonal flu are practically the same (and that we as a human race have acquired immunity against it), it is not true. In fact, the difference between them is huge!
A major part of our population is susceptible to the uglier side of flu, especially people with diabetes or asthma, senior citizens and young children in the age group of 6 months-8 years.
I was introduced to the flu shot very recently
My father was diagnosed with severe COPD in 2018. That was the first time I heard about the annual flu shot. Yes, I was ignorant like that! Then I moved to the US and I realized that an annual flu shot is encouraged among its citizens every year.
Why do you need a flu shot when it looks like common cold and cough (though it is not) and your body can fight it? Well, the doctor had a different (and true) story to tell.
In straightforward terms, the influenza virus changes very quickly. So, every time it enters your body, it’s a new enemy. A flu shot makes sure that your body is well prepared. And we all saw that happening with the covid-19 virus too.
My father is 68. And senior citizens are at a higher risk. How?
Image Source: http://bit.ly/FluImmunise
How does a flu shot work?
Vaccines introduce a weak or inactive form of the virus to the body. The body reacts by stimulating the immune system and creating antibodies. These antibodies remember the disease and can defend against it if the person becomes infected. This is really as simple as this! Do remember though, that you need to repeat the flu shot every year!
And time and again, history has proved that vaccines work.
Doctors recommend people to get flu shots to prevent viral infections and to decrease the risk of other pulmonary problems like pneumonia.
But I might catch flu from the vaccine itself
This is the most popular myth about vaccines. The vaccine is actually safe. It’s always a good idea to do your research and spread awareness.
The best time to get your flu shot is now
The WHO has recommended that the Southern Hemisphere (SH) vaccine is the ideal vaccine for India. Influenza vaccination is most effective when local circulating viruses are well-matched with vaccine antigens for SH. Since the peak season of flu in the larger part of the country starts between mid-summer to monsoons, now is the right time to vaccinate against flu for effective protection. Also, there have been swine flu outbreaks in various parts of the country. Since, H1N1 is one of the strains in the vaccine, the flu shot can help protect from swine flu as well.
Flu vaccine should be taken annually. However, getting vaccinated early for subsequent seasons is likely to be associated with reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season, particularly among older adults says CDC. Protection fades over time, so not getting vaccinated with the vaccine containing the right seasonal strains may leave one more vulnerable. Vaccination can be done throughout the SH flu season, into September or later. If you have just taken the season vaccine, ensure a gap of 14 days before taking the flu shot.
Harvard Health Publishing talks about some more myths. You will be surprised to know that how common these myths are and it is so important to bust them! The flu is a lot more than a bad cold. A vaccine will help you prevent the severity of flu.
So talk to your doctor, get that jab and stay protected!
We must #PreventWhatCanBePrevented because flu is preventable with vaccination.