5 Things Parents Should Know About the 2016 Flu Shot
Here’s what you need to know about this year’s flu shot and how well it will protect you.
1. This year’s flu shot is effective
Infectious diseases experts and pediatricians say the flu shot looks like it’s going to work much better than it did last year.
Though peak flu season usually hits between December and February, the dominant type circulating so far is the same H3N2 strain that struck in 2014—a serious form of influenza that leads to a lot of hospitalizations.
“Looks like we got it right this year,” says Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital at the nationally renowned University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. “We redid the vaccine so that one of the three strains it protects against is H3N2.”
Scientists create the flu shot i to protect against the three dominant strains of the virus circulating in any given season two of them for influenza A, and one for influenza B. This year’s vaccine is designed to ward off a slightly different B strain than it did last year, according to Fisher. But since B doesn’t usually spread until February or March, it remains to be seen how well that strain will match up.
Most years, the vaccine is between 60 and 65 percent effective, but in 2014 it was only about 23 percent effective.
“What happened last year was that the predominant circulating strain of influenza did not match the vaccine, so our vaccine did not provide a lot of effectiveness against that strain,” says Esper. The problem wasn’t just with the injection, either.
“Not only did the shot not work very well, but the nasal spray also didn’t work very well, so neither one was that protective,” says Fisher. This year the odds are much better.
2. Everyone in the family should get vaccinated
Since children are among the most vulnerable to severe bouts of the virus, it’s doubly important to get kids (and those close to them) vaccinated.
“Every year, more than 100 children die from complications of influenza in this country,” says Dr. Meg Fisher, past president of the NJ American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the medical director of Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center. “Because we can’t pick out who’s going to get really sick, we have to protect every child.”
According to the CDC, there were more than 105 flu-related children’s deaths in the 2013-2014 season..
3. So should everyone else
Aside from babies and young children—pregnant women, adults over age 50, chemo patients, people with asthma and heart problems, smokers and anyone with a weakened immune system are among the most susceptible to serious attacks of the flu. Everyone, unless your doctor advises you otherwise, should get vaccinated.
4. There’s a delay in getting the nasal spray form of the vaccine to doctors’ offices
The nasal spray form of the vaccine, which fights four different flu strains, is going to be a little late this year since scientists made changes to the target flu strains. .
“In some areas, people have not gotten the nasal spray of the flu vaccine,” says Fisher. “It’s not totally a shortage, it’s a little delay in getting all the nasal spray out to practices.”
5. Yes, you can still get the flu, but you should get vaccinated anyway
Though you can still get the flu even if you’ve been vaccinated against it, you’re significantly cutting down your risk of catching it with the shot. Plus, even if you do wind up sick with the flu, it will likely be a milder, shorter bout of the virus than it would have been if you haven’t had the vaccine.
Flu symptoms include muscle and body aches, fever, chills, sore throat, headaches, nasal congestion, coughs and marked fatigue. Sometimes vomiting and diarrhea can also occur, more often in children than adults.
The shot usually takes between two and four weeks to start getting the maximum protection. You’ll be guarding not only your family but everyone who comes into contact with them against a nasty, potentially life-threatening bug that keeps kids out of school, parents out of work and everyone home sick in bed.
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