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Is the Flu Shot Effective? Why It Is Still Better To Get Vaccinated

( [email protected] ) Oct 27, 2015 11:54 PM EDT
Thoughts of annual flu shots conjure up images of the unpleasant needle, and long lines at distribution centers. To make matters worse, last year’s vaccine was released right after the H3N2 strain that it was targeting mutated. This led to an unfortunate mismatch that made the vaccine less effective. Even so, health officials are still urging everyone to get their flu shots this year.
Nurses prepare influenza vaccine injections during a flu shot clinic at Dorchester House, a health care clinic, in Boston, Massachusetts January 12, 2013. REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER

Thoughts of annual flu shots conjure up images of the unpleasant needle and long lines at distribution centers. To make matters worse, the H3N2 strain that last year's vaccine targeted had mutated, which led to an unfortunate mismatch, making the vaccine less effective. Even so, health officials are still urging everyone to get their flu shots this year.

"Even if the vaccine is not exact, it will still provide protection. The message about the vaccine is: It's always a good idea to have it," New Jersey Department of Health liaison, Carmen Rodriguez, said according to Biz Journals.

Other experts have pointed out that this year's batch of flu vaccines has addressed the mismatch issue. 

In a report by USA Today, professor of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine William Schaffner said that flu vaccines for this year a "good match for influenza viruses in circulation. He also mentioned that it takes two weeks for the vaccine to take effect. So, people should get their immunization shots as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, shortages of nasal spray flu vaccines have been reported recently as two pharmaceutical companies have cited delays in production. This popular needle-free method of vaccine delivery mainly targets for children as young as 2. However, adults as old as age-49 can use this alternate method of immunization. Marketed under Flu-Mist, the nasal flu spray vaccine is considered by doctors as an acceptable alternative to the traditional needle vaccination method.

The CDC reports that 171-179 million doses of flu vaccines have been manufactured, with more than 109 million doses delivered so far. However, only about half of adults in the U.S. get flu shots each year. Missing a flu shot may result in serious illness. More than 200,000 people have been admitted to the hospital every year for the flu. The disease claims the lives of at least 24,000. Doctors urge anyone between 6 months or older to receive the flu vaccine.

Naturally, there is the risk of side effects. Common ones include soreness, tenderness, redness or swelling in areas where the injection was made. Nasal sprays avoid this unpleasant experience. In less common cases, symptoms include slight fever, head and muscle aches. An instance of death due to side effects are extremely rare, and only occur amongst those who are allergic to the vaccine. Experts say that more people are more likely to die from drowning, car accidents and being struck by lightning each year. Hence, apart from a minor inconvenience to one's daily schedule, there is little risk associated with getting the flu shot this year.