Specialist Paedetrician at Medcare, Dubai talks about how flu vaccines work as a shield against getting influenza
24 January 2018| Last updated on 5 August 2019
Living in Dubai, everyone is susceptible to getting flu. With the ever changing temperatures, our immune systems are easily compromised. Let’s take a closer look at what is flu vaccine, its benefits, side effects and who needs it.
What is Flu Vaccine?
Flu vaccine also called as Flu shot is given to prevent people from getting Influenza.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by Influenza viruses. Flu vaccine lowers the risk of getting affected by more than 50%. The effect of Influenza can vary between mild to serious illness including life threatening complications. Younger children, older adults and people with chronic illness are more likely to develop complications due to Influenza.
An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to reduce your risk of getting sick with seasonal flu and spreading it to others. When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through that community.
Types of Flu vaccine
There are 2 types of Influenza vaccines:
Live attenuated vaccines are not recommended for Influenza 2017-2018 by Centre for Disease Control CDC for this season.
Inactivated vaccines are further divided into two types - Trivalent and Quadrivalent. Both are effective in controlling seasonal Flu caused by Influenza viruses. Because these are inactivated vaccines, there is no virus in the vaccine. Hence the Flu shot does not give rise to Flu.
The vaccine is given intramuscularly in the upper arm. The body produces antibodies against Influenza viruses to fight against it when exposed within 2 weeks.
Who needs the vaccine?
Children 6 months and older should get Influenza vaccines every year as recommended by CDC in November 2010. It is particularly important for people who are prone to complications due to Influenza.
The high risk people are - children under 5 years of age, adults older than 65 years, pregnant women, people with medical conditions like Asthma, Chronic lung diseases, heart disease, diabetic, chronic liver and kidney disorders, blood related disorders, Neurological disorders, immune compromised and individuals with morbid obesity.
It is given every year because the virus strain changes every year and new vaccine gets produced every year depending upon the prevalent strain as advised by World Health Organization WHO and the vaccine offers protection only for 8-10 months. It should be given in August -September of each year before the onset of Flu season.
Children 6 months to 8 years should receive 2 doses 4 weeks apart when they are vaccinated for the first time. From subsequent year its one shot every year.
What are the benefits of vaccine?
It reduces the risk of getting sick due to seasonal Influenza viruses and decreases death and hospitalizations due to Influenza.
Within 2 weeks of vaccine immunity against Influenza develops. It protects against Influenza A H1N1, Influenza B and H3N2. The people in the community get indirectly protected due to vaccination of individuals and decreased spread in the community.
The complication of Influenza especially in high risk individuals can be avoided by vaccination. They will not need anti-viral medications and medical care.
What are the side effects?
The side effects are usually mild and go away on their own. Serious reactions are rare but possible.
The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot.
Some minor side effects that may occur are: Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given, Low grade fever and muscle pains. In adults the Flu shot can cause pain in the injection site, headache, muscle pain and fatigue. The symptoms last for 1- 2 days and do not require any treatment.
People who have past history of Guillian Barre syndrome, People who developed severe allergic reactions to vaccine in the past, and people who are sick during vaccination should not be vaccinated with Flu shots. They should contact their doctor for advice.
For more information or to book an appointment, please visit Medcare or press ‘Click to Contact’ to submit your inquiries.
Authored by Dr. Sripradha Sudarsanam
Medcare Jumeirah Medical Center