Call 936.539.4004 | Hablamos Español

3 min read

Flu Vaccines: An important part of health maintenance

Lone Star Family Health Flu Vaccines: An Important Part of Health Maintenance Dr Lehrmann Profile

Who Gets the Flu Shot- and Why?

The CDC currently recommends that everyone 6 months or older get vaccinated for the flu every flu season. You should tell your provider if you have ever had a previous allergic reaction to an influenza vaccine, any severe reactions to vaccines or have ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, as they may want to postpone or recommend against the vaccine for you. If you are currently moderately to severely ill, you will want to postpone vaccination, but everyone else should be vaccinated. Pregnant people should also receive the inactivated influenza vaccine. The vaccine will protect the mother and the fetus, as well as a newborn for the first months of its life. The influenza vaccine does not cause the flu, and immunity is fully acquired 2 weeks after vaccination. Because there are many different flu viruses, a new vaccine is formulated each year based on the predicted viruses of that year. The influenza vaccine reduces the risk of infection and reduces the risk of hospitalization with an infection or death. It protects the person who is vaccinated and also helps to build herd immunity that protects the most vulnerable in the population.

How Does the Flu Vaccination Work?

In general, vaccines work by training your body’s immune system. The immune system then acts as an enemy to a recognized threat. The influenza vaccine “trains” your immune system to recognize the particular virus causing the flu, seeking it out and destroying it. In the United States, all vaccines are quadrivalent vaccines, meaning they protect against four different flu viruses each year (an influenza A(H1N1) virus, an influenza A(H3N2) virus and two influenza B viruses. When your immune system encounters a new virus, it sends out white blood cells to fight the threat. White blood cells produce antibodies that target structures on the surface of the virus called antigens. These antibodies bind to the antigens on the virus and prevent it from entering into your healthy cells and also alert other white blood cells to come and attack the virus. This process takes usually a couple of weeks and will not prevent you from becoming sick the first time you encounter that virus. The goal of the influenza vaccine is the expose your immune system to the virus antigens before you are infected with the flu. In this way, your body will have its antibodies already sensitized when you are exposed to the flu. You will hopefully not get sick, or at least have a milder case of the flu.

Myths vs. Real Benefits

The most common myth about the influenza vaccine is that the flu shot will give you the flu. Almost every provider has heard this claim. Although often repeated, it is certainly not true. A flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. Flu vaccines that are given as shots are inactivated (killed) flu viruses or made with proteins from a flu virus. Either way, they cannot reproduce and cause flu illness. They may cause minor side effects like injection site tenderness, redness or swelling, fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, or even nausea, but these are generally mild and do not last long. One afternoon of possible discomfort is nothing compared to having a real case of the flu. Another misconception about influenza vaccinations is that they will prevent you from getting the flu. While this can be true, vaccines reduce the severity of the illness and reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalization or death. Although it is possible that you may still get the flu, it will almost certainly be a lesser and shorter period of illness and it significantly reduces the risk of hospitalization or death. One of the most persistent myths about vaccines is that they can cause autism in children. This belief has persisted although it has no merit. Vaccines do not cause autism. Although some people have had concerns that autism may be linked to the vaccines that children receive, studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing autism. And finally, the myth that the flu is really not that bad and is like getting the common cold is not true. Every year, influenza sends thousands of people to the hospital and causes thousands of deaths in the United States. It is a contagious respiratory infection usually spread by a cough or sneeze quite easily and can lead to severe complications or death. Healthy people can get the flu and it can be serious for them. But the vaccine is especially important for people over 50, those with chronic heart or lung conditions, diabetes or kidney disease, anyone immune compromised, pregnant women, and anyone in close contact with high-risk individuals. Getting the influenza vaccination is the most effective way to reduce the chance of being infected with the flu.

Lehrmann#2Dr. Lehrmann is a resident physician who sees patients of all ages and provides obstetrical services at Lone Star Family Health Center, a non-profit 501©3 Federally Qualified Health Center operating facilities in Conroe, Spring, Willis, Grangerland, and Huntsville, and serving as home to a fully integrated Family Medicine Residency Program to increase the number of Family Medicine physicians for Texas and our community.