Who ought to get the flu vaccine and why? Our medical analyst explains
Welcome to this yr’s flu season.
This yr’s flu pressure has already began spreading in america, in accordance with new information from america Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention. There have been no less than 880,000 flu instances, almost 7,000 hospitalizations and, tragically, 360 flu deaths this fall, together with one pediatric loss of life. Not since 2009, on the top of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, have there been so many flu instances so early within the season.
Regardless of these figures, many individuals marvel if the flu is admittedly such a critical illness. What’s the good thing about the vaccine, particularly if some individuals can nonetheless get the flu regardless of being vaccinated? Might you catch the flu from the vaccine? If you happen to get the Covid shot, do you continue to want the flu shot?
To stroll us via these questions and extra, I spoke with Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst, emergency doctor, public well being knowledgeable, and professor of well being coverage and administration at George Washington College Milken Institute. College of Public Well being. She can also be the creator of “Lifelines: A Physician’s Journey within the Struggle for Public Well being”.
CNN: Is the flu a critical sickness? What signs do individuals expertise?
Dr AS Leana Wen: It could definitely be critical. The CDC estimates that influenza induced between 9 million and 41 million diseases, 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations, and 12,000 to 52,000 deaths yearly in america between 2010 and 2020.
Flu signs embody fever, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, cough and runny nostril. Many individuals recuperate inside just a few days, however some should still really feel unwell for 10 days to 2 weeks after their signs begin. Some will develop issues together with sinus and ear infections, pneumonia and mind irritation. The flu may also exacerbate underlying medical circumstances – for instance, individuals with power lung and coronary heart illness might even see their situation worsen as a result of flu.
Even typically wholesome individuals can get very sick from the flu. Nevertheless, individuals notably liable to critical penalties embody individuals aged 65 and over, younger youngsters underneath 2, pregnant ladies and folks with underlying well being circumstances.
CNN: What’s the good thing about the vaccine, particularly if some individuals can get the flu whereas they’re vaccinated?
Magnifying glass: The flu vaccine does two issues. At first, it reduces your danger of significant sickness, i.e. being hospitalized or dying. Second, it could possibly additionally decrease your danger of getting sick from the flu.
In a manner, it isn’t too completely different from the Covid-19 vaccine. Crucial purpose to get the flu and coronavirus vaccine is to forestall critical sickness. New information revealed within the CDC’s newest morbidity and mortality report exhibits that this yr’s flu vaccine reduces the danger of hospitalization by about 50%. A 2018 research discovered that individuals who have been vaccinated in opposition to the flu have been 59% much less more likely to be admitted to intensive care due to the flu in comparison with those that weren’t vaccinated.
Vaccine efficacy might differ relying on vaccine compatibility with circulating influenza strains. The CDC cites vaccine effectiveness in opposition to “medicine-assisted diseases” starting from 23% to 61% relying on yr and vaccine-strain match. So it is true that you might get the flu shot and nonetheless get the flu. However the vaccine reduces your danger – and, most significantly, it reduces the probability that you’ll find yourself very sick.
One other factor to contemplate is that there are lots of different viruses that may trigger flu-like signs. The flu vaccine helps shield in opposition to viral infections attributable to influenza, however there are lots of different causes of viral syndromes, together with adenovirus, rhinovirus, parainfluenza, and others. These different viruses additionally unfold simply and there aren’t any vaccines in opposition to them. I typically hear sufferers say they received the flu the identical yr they received the flu shot, and that is why they do not wish to get the flu shot anymore. However once I ask them if they’ve truly been recognized with the flu or if they simply have flu-like signs, they are saying the latter.
CNN: Ought to youngsters and pregnant ladies additionally get the flu shot?
Magnifying glass: Completely. These are teams notably weak to critical penalties, so it is rather essential that they obtain the flu vaccine.
A research has discovered that the flu vaccine reduces the danger of extreme, life-threatening flu in youngsters by 75%. One other discovered it lower flu-related ER visits in youngsters by half.
Comparable outcomes are present in pregnant individuals. Not solely does the flu vaccine shield the pregnant girl, but when given throughout being pregnant, it additionally helps shield their child in opposition to the flu for the primary few months of life. That is essential as a result of the flu vaccine is just not out there for infants till they’re 6 months previous or older.
CNN: Might you catch the flu from the vaccine?
Magnifying glass: No. The influenza vaccine is an inactivated vaccine, which implies that it doesn’t comprise the reside virus and subsequently can’t trigger influenza. Additionally it is a really nicely tolerated vaccine, the commonest facet impact being discomfort on the injection web site which disappears after sooner or later.
CNN: If you happen to received the Covid-19 vaccine, do you continue to want the flu shot?
Magnifying glass: Sure. Completely different vaccines goal completely different viruses. The Covid vaccine helps shield in opposition to Covid, however doesn’t shield in opposition to the flu, and vice versa. You possibly can obtain the Covid vaccine (or bivalent booster) concurrently you obtain the flu vaccine, simply in a distinct injection web site.
CNN: Some individuals waited till later within the flu season to get their flu shot. Is it a good suggestion?
Magnifying glass: At this level, no, as a result of it’s now clear that this flu season is beginning sooner than traditional. Instances are already excessive and it takes about two weeks to attain optimum immune safety after vaccination. I encourage individuals who haven’t but had the flu shot to take action now.
CNN: What ought to individuals find out about flu remedies?
Magnifying glass: Most instances of influenza could be handled symptomatically, which implies sufferers relaxation, hydrate, and obtain remedy for signs that come up, comparable to anti-fever drugs like acetaminophen or ibuprofen . There are additionally antiviral remedies. These are actually essential for individuals at excessive danger of significant flu issues and/or who’re very in poor health. The sooner these remedies are began, the higher. An oral medicine, oseltamivir (Tamiflu), can be given to non-high-risk sufferers, too, inside 48 hours of the onset of their sickness.
I encourage everybody to have a flu plan, the identical manner they need to have a Covid plan. Ask your physician prematurely for those who ought to obtain Tamiflu or different antiviral remedy. Know how one can get examined and the place you may entry remedy, together with after hours and on weekends.
CNN: How can individuals keep away from getting the flu?
Magnifying glass: The flu is transmitted primarily via droplets – if an contaminated individual coughs or sneezes, these droplets can land on another person close by. Additionally it is doable that the droplets land on a floor, from which an individual turns into contaminated after touching it after which touching their nostril, mouth or eyes.
We might help scale back the transmission of the flu by staying away from others whereas now we have signs. We must always all cough or sneeze into our elbow or a tissue and wash our fingers often, together with after touching high-touch surfaces. People who find themselves notably weak to extreme penalties ought to take into account carrying a masks to scale back their danger of contracting viral diseases just like the flu. And naturally, get vaccinated!