We often take for granted how effective vaccines have been, because we have the comfort of living during a time when many communicable diseases are no longer a threat to our lives. If you’re asking “should I get a flu shot for 2019?”, the answer is “definitely yes!”. That’s because influenza is a mutating virus that takes on different forms every flu season. And 2019’s flu season has been particularly bad so far. At Sirius Health we are committed to providing our patients with up-to-date information on the latest health trends.
But It’s November – Hasn’t Flu Season Passed Us By Now?
The flu is not just one virus. Every season there are different strains in circulation, and flu vaccines have to be developed in response to the strains that are circulating. Different strains are also likely to affect specific age groups of people.
When a virus mutates within a flu season, it is highly likely that the developed vaccines may not offer protection against the mutated form. If the shifts that take place are relatively small, it may be possible to have protection under the seasonal flu vaccine.
This year the mutation has occurred in the A/H3N2 strain, but the WHO has not yet confirmed how effective the vaccine is against the mutation.
Does The Flu Shot Work?
Having a flu shot still offers the best protection against developing the flu, even if there is no guarantee. In the event that you do get influenza, you are likely to develop milder symptoms and recover faster.
How effective the vaccine is at protecting you against the flu is dependant on different factors. The strains that are incorporated are based on World Health Organization guidelines and are based on global research.
The 2019 Flu Season Was Particularly Bad
So far 2019 has surprised health officials with how ruthless it has been and individuals are urged to have their flu shot as soon as possible, even though the peak of flu season has passed us.
Flu season usually lasts from June to September, but patients should be aware that the vaccine offers optimal protection in the three to four months after receiving it.
While influenza does have a season, and often has a peak, it is possible to contract it at any time of the year. People who travel overseas a lot and people who work closely with others who are more vulnerable to the flu should have their flu shot every year, to ensure immunity to different strains in circulation.
It is important that pregnant women have the flu shot in order to protect themselves and their babies from the flu.
Babies cannot have the flu vaccine before the age of six months, so they rely on the immunity they receive from their mothers, and they also need to rely on their mothers not developing flu themselves, and putting their babies at risk.
How To Protect Yourself
The flu is highly contagious so, in addition to having the flu vaccine, you can protect yourself by improving your hygiene and lifestyle habits
- Washing your hands regularly with antibacterial soap
- Covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing
- Managing your symptoms if you do feel under the weather, and staying out of contact with others, so as not to pass it on.
Free Flu Vaccines For High Risk Groups
Groups of people who are considered to carry a higher risk of complications from the flu are eligible to receive a free flu vaccine. These groups of people include
- Children over the age of six months and under the age of 5
- Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
- People over the age of 65
- People who suffer from cardiac disease, chronic respiratory conditions, chronic illnesses, chronic neurological conditions, people with impaired immune systems and children over the age of six months and under the age of 10 who are receiving long term aspirin therapy
What Are The Side Effects?
Side effects are rare and occur more commonly in the special vaccines that are administered to people over the age of 65.
Mild side effects from the flu shot may include
- Pain or redness at the injection site
The side effects from having the vaccine are much smaller than those associated with developing influenza. Please also note that the flu shot does not contain the live virus, therefore it is not possible to develop the flu as a result of having the vaccine.
Should I Get A Flu Shot?
The government recommends every have a flu shot once a year, to give them protection against the strains in circulation – and to provide herd immunity to those groups of people who can’t be vaccinated. Despite medical interventions, thousands of people still die from complications from the virus every year.
Still have questions? Please give us a call: (02) 9159 6903