View All Articles

With Flu Shots Less Effective this Year, Here's Why You Should Still Get Vaccinated

December 11, 2014

Every year during flu season, there’s a debate about whether to get the flu vaccine.

However, conventional wisdom—and medical data—indicates that getting a flu shot can help you stay healthy. The vaccine reduces a person’s risk of getting the flu between 70-90 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

With the CDC predicting a more severe flu season this year, it’s as good a time as any to visit your local pharmacy and get vaccinated—even as more news stories emerge saying the this year’s flu vaccine may not be as effective on a flu strain that it was supposed to combat.

Researchers develop flu vaccines every year as protection against flu strains that are most likely to spread and make people sick in the upcoming flu season.  Unfortunately, a mutation in the H3N2 strain of the flu has made this year’s vaccine less effective than the CDC had hoped, causing concern among scientists, researchers and many health professionals. According to a recent CDC report, more than half of the 85 flu virus samples collected from October to late November differed from the virus strains included in the most recent flu vaccine.

According to the current statistics, influenza A (H3N2) is the most common strain of the virus reported so far this season. This is concerning because this strain has been connected to higher rates of hospitalizations and death among the most at-risk populations, such as young children and the elderly.

This is even more reason why you should still get a flu shot this year. The vaccine is still partially effective against this mutated strain and several other strains. When it comes to getting the flu vaccine, doing something is better than doing nothing. Even if you’ve already been vaccinated, your symptoms will be less severe if you contract the flu because you’ve taken this worthwhile precaution.

I strongly encourage everyone to get a flu shot. However, if you haven’t done this and have begun to experience flu-like symptoms—such as a fever, sore throat or body aches—you should start taking anti-viral medication as soon as possible. This can help to reduce flu complications if you take the medication right after you notice symptoms.

But prevention also is critical. The best way to stay healthy is to not get sick in the first place. So, here’s what you can do to lower your risk of the flu and of spreading it to others:

  • Stay home if you’re sick: If you begin experiencing flu-like symptoms, it’s better to not travel or go to work. It’s important to get rest and replenish your immune system, rather than spending time in very public places where your illness may spread or where other people’s germs can worsen your symptoms.

  • Mind your manners: From a young age, we’ve all been taught to cover our nose and mouth when we cough or sneeze. This advice is especially important during flu season to prevent the spread of germs. If you use a tissue to blow your nose, place it in the trash. Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer throughout the day, especially if you’re sneezing.
  • Be mindful of your hands: You should avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose, as this is also how germs spread.
  • Clean up frequently: Use disinfectant wipes, soap and warm water to clean surfaces and objects that could be contaminated with the flu and other germs. Also, if you’re sick, don’t share cups, utensils and other dinnerware with friends or family. Even if your symptoms are just beginning to emerge, someone else could contract the same illness if they share food with you.
The flu is a very serious illness that you should take seriously. It leads to thousands of hospital stays and fatalities every year, so it’s important to do whatever is necessary to prevent this illness. The flu vaccine is the best way to increase your chances of staying healthy. If you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, visit your doctor, local pharmacy or clinic to do so as soon as possible. It’s the only way to protect yourself and your loved ones.