This Year's Flu Shot: Does it Work?

  • As we discussed in my last posting, Asthma Complicating your Holidays? Eight Tips to get Through the Holidays Healthy, there are several things you can do to keep well this winter.  One of those important steps is to stay up to date on your vaccinations.  

    This coming week is National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) which was started by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to highlight how important this vaccination is during this time of year.  Getting the flu vaccine is even more important if you have asthma.  In fact, the CDC recommends that everyone with asthma who is six months or older should be vaccinated against the flu.

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    Late this week a posting began circulating on social media stating that the flu shot does not work this year.  If you read that article you may be confused as to why the vaccination is still being recommended. 


    So, lets clear up some of the confusion.

    The CDC always researches what strains of the flu are going around.  It helps them to determine how to craft next year's vaccine as well as allowing them to estimate how well the current vaccine will work. The main objective of flu vaccination is to protect against the strains most likely to occur.  Creating a vaccine for the flu that works 100% of the time is just not possible because of the way the flu itself shifts and changes strains.


    This year a Health Advisory was issued by the CDC about the strains of flu currently circulating.  From this first month of the flu season, the CDC found that only 48% of the flu cases matched the strain of flu that the vaccine protects against.  In the remaining 52% of cases the strain of flu had shifted and no longer matched the vaccine.  It is important to remember that because the strains don't match it does not mean that 52% of people vaccinated will not be protected from the flu at all.  In those instances it is believed that the flu vaccine will still offer some protection.  This protection can limit the chances of severe outcomes. 


    Remember, some protection is better than no protection when it comes to the flu and asthma.  

    If you do end up with flu like symptoms, even though you have had your flu vaccination, it is important to call your doctor as soon as possible.  There are anti-viral medications that can shorten the duration of the flu when they are started quickly.  Your doctor may also want to adjust your asthma treatment plan by adding medications to insure your breathing remains at an optimal level or advise follow-up appointments to monitor your lung function.

    The best way to avoid flu complications is to prevent getting sick in the first place.  If your doctor has recommended the flu vaccine then please follow their advice.  This year's flu vaccine still offers some protection from the illness.  It is also important to steer clear of anyone who has recently been sick and practice good hygiene and hand washing skills throughout flu season.  

    Wishing you all HEALTH and happiness this holiday season.

  • For more information in National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) check out the information from Health Central's Flu Vaccination Digital Ambassadors.  Kathi MacNaughton's post, National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW)- Did You Get Your Flu Shot Yet? provides a list of current relay blogs on the subject.

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Published On: December 06, 2014