20 September 2018 Blog Post: Flu Shots are IN! But Should You Have One? That's the Question.
The 2018/2019 seasonal flu shots have arrived at Santa Monica Primary Care and we have already begun administering them. The most common question I have fielded so far has been “is it going to be as ineffective as last season’s?”
This is a reasonable question as the 2017/2018 flu vaccine was about 36% effective overall and varied by age group (I covered this in a February 16th, 2018 post which can be found below). In fact, the CDC estimated that since 2004, the flu vaccine efficacy has ranged from 10% to 60%.
So why is it so difficult to get the flu shot right? Part of the reason is that each year the flu vaccine itself is reformulated, based on an educated guess from historical and current circulating viral strains. A vaccine is produced with three or four strains which can be spot on and effective. However, if a virus modifies itself even slightly (a phenomenon called antigenic drift), then virus can evade the vaccine.
So why do I stock it, give it and recommend it? Well, even at 40% effectiveness (such as during 2016/2017), the vaccine prevented 5.29 million illnesses, 2.64 million medical visits and more than 84,000 hospitalizations. Further, anecdotally, we saw that last year among our own patients that those who contracted the flu after vaccination had shorter illnesses and less severe symptoms than those who did not get the flu shot at all. So some protection is better than none.
There are other measures you can take as well during flu season – for instance, washing your hands multiple times during the day for 20 second with soap and water will help. If you develop symptoms, give our office a call and set up an appointment. We have point-of-care testing for influenza and can tell you right then and there whether or not you have influenza, or another circulating virus.
And cover your sneeze or cough! The flu virus can survive on surfaces for up to 48 hours… Yet another reason to take precautions
𝗦𝗶𝗴𝗻 𝗨𝗽 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗢𝘂𝗿 𝗡𝗲𝘄𝘀𝗹𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿
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