Influenza Vaccine: Inject or Reject?
Influenza is an acute viral infection that peaks from October to May in the United States. In most people, the infection is mild and recovery usually occurs within a week, without any medical attention. However,complications may occur in people at high risk, necessitating hospitalization and even resulting in death.
It is estimated that influenza epidemics kill about 36,000 people each year. As many as 226,000 are hospitalized yearly in the United States. Morbidity and mortality is highest among persons 65 years or older and children 2 years or younger. Certain other populations are also at an increased risk and these include: people with chronic medical conditions, people living in nursing homes or other long-term facilities, pregnant women, people who live with or take care of high risk patients (for example, health care workers) and household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age as these children are too young to be vaccinated.
Influenza is caused by influenza viruses that circle every part of the world. Infection is usually characterized by a sudden onset of high fever, dry cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, severe malaise, sore throat and runny nose. It is usually spread by infected droplets released during the cough of an infected person. These droplets are inhaled by nearby people and ends up infecting them. Infection can also be spread by hands. Influenza can be prevented by covering the mouth and nose when coughing and washing hands regularly. However, the most effective prevention method is vaccination
Influenza viruses are of three types: A, B and C. Since type C virus infection is uncommon in humans, influenza A and B are the only types in included in seasonal influenza vaccines. Following recommendations of the WHO, the 2010-2011 influenza vaccine contained the following three vaccine viruses:
an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus; an A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus; and a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.
The influenza vaccine for the 2011-2012 season is unchanged from last year. However,if you were vaccinated last year, your immunity may have declined and you may now be susceptible. The CDC recommends that people get re-vaccinated again this year.
One cannot get influenza from the influenza vaccine, as it contains killed inactivated influenza vaccine. Serious reactions or death due to the influenza vaccine are extremely rare.
Influenza vaccine is safe and highly protective. It is therefore important that we all take influenza vaccination every year. It is even more important for people at a higher risk to take it early as it takes about 2 weeks following vaccination to develop immunity. However since the viruses continue to circulate throughout the influenza season, vaccination could be taken even during late winter months. For more information, visit