“Don’t believe everything you read in the headlines” OR “Things you need to know before you say ‘No’ to the flu vaccine”
By Dr. Karen Prentice
Yes, we’ve all read the headlines saying that this year’s flu vaccine is only 10% effective in preventing influenza, but I challenge you to look closer at the research.
According to infectious disease experts from the US National Institutes of Health and the WHO “seasonal flu vaccine development has left the United States relatively defenseless against the influenza A H3N2 strain now making its way over from the Southern Hemisphere
.” They go on to say that preliminary data from the Australia outbreak
put the influenza A H3N2 vaccine efficacy at 10%.
What they don’t mention is that according to the CDC, Center for Disease Control, FluView research for the week of October 1 through November 25, 2017 the “majority of influenza viruses collected in the United States were characterized antigenically and genetically as being similar to the cell-grown reference viruses representing the 2017-2018 Northern Hemisphere
influenza vaccine.” Basically, so far the United States influenza vaccine matches the virus we are seeing. In past years when the vaccine matched the circulating influenza virus, protection was between 40-60%.
Let’s break it down:
- The flu vaccine was only 10% effective in preventing influenza in Australia
- So far in the US the vaccine matches the strain we are seeing (although we haven’t had much influenza yet)
- In years past when the vaccine matched the strain, influenza and it’s complications were prevented 40-60% of the time
Here are some things to know before you say “No” to the flu shot:
- Each year between 12,000 and 52,000 Americas die of influenza or its complications.
- In 2017, a study in Pediatrics journal looked at four influenza seasons between 2010 and 2014 and found that the influenza vaccine reduced influenza associated deaths by 51% in children with high risk medical conditions and by 65% in healthy children.
- Getting the flu vaccine reduces death, intensive care hospital admissions, and overall hospitalizations.
- The influenza vaccine can prevent severe life-threatening illnesses in children.
- One study showed that for every 4000 people that got the flu vaccine, one death was prevented. Doesn’t sound like a lot but if it’s your family member that’s a big deal.
- The flu vaccine lowers rates of cardiac events in those with heart disease.
- Getting the influenza vaccine reduces hospitalization in people with diabetes and lung disease.
- Pregnant ladies who get the flu shot had reduced incidence of flu and its complications and decreased the risk to her baby by 50%.
- Being vaccinated protects those around you that are more vulnerable to serious flu-like illness such as babies, young children, and the elderly. (Aren’t you glad your doctors and staff at Great Destinations get the flu shot?)
So this morning as I read the headlines and then did my own research, I came up with the facts you just read. This is the best of our knowledge for right now. When making a decision about medication or vaccines, one must always weigh the benefits and the risks. The risks of getting the flu shot are pretty minimal and include soreness at the site of the shot, redness and swelling at the site, fever for a day or two, and body aches. That’s not bad when you compare the serious illness influenza can cause not to mention the fatalities. In my mind, it’s way too soon to know how effective the flu shot will be in the United States. However, even if it is only 10% effective, that’s better than nothing.
If you have questions or want to discuss whether or not to get the flu shot, please don’t hesitate to call us.
Beat Cold and Flu Season: A Doctor’s Guide to Staying Healthy By Dr. Karen Prentice
The holidays and winter season bring many joys but also bring colds and flus. The majority of infections your family will face this season are spread either by breathing in respiratory droplets from a cough or by touching infected particles stuck on surfaces like doorknobs and shopping carts. In an effort to keep our families healthy, we have compiled the following list. Some of the advice you already know, but some tips may surprise you. Reduce the chance of getting sick through good hygiene and by strengthening your immune system. Here’s how:
- Hygiene: Wash your hands with an antibacterial soap and water for 20 seconds before eating or touching your face, nose or eyes. Wash your hands after you leave a public place. Never share food, drinks, toothpaste or toothbrushes with anyone.
- Sleep: A well-rested body can fight off infection much easier than a sleep-deprived body. Children and teens need 8-10 hours a night and adults 8 hours. Infants need more sleep, anywhere from 12-15 hours a day.
- Antioxidant-Rich Diet: Antioxidants found in foods and teas reduce inflammation and help prevent infection. Not only do fruits and vegetables provide your body with vitamins (far better than synthetic vitamins), they also have antioxidants. Try to eat at least 3 fresh fruits per day and 4 servings of vegetables per day such as sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, blueberries, tomatoes, carrots, spinach, citrus fruits, and strawberries. Other foods rich in antioxidants are beans, avocado, nuts, fish, and green tea (decaffeinated preferred for kids).
- Exercise: Exercising an hour a day will keep your body healthy, reduce stress and help your immune system. Try to find something fun your family can do together.
- Fresh Air and Sunshine: An hour a day of walking, exercising, gardening or just playing outside provides vitamin D, an essential vitamin, and reduces stress- both of which will help your immune system. Studies show that people who are “nature deprived” suffer from more illnesses and infections than those who “play” outside daily. Make sure to use sunscreen; this will not prevent you from getting vitamin D.
- Vaccines: Vaccines have been one of the most important life-saving accomplishments of medicine. Prior to vaccines, thousands of children and adults died every year in the US. Polio paralyzed 21,000 people in 1952. In the 1920’s 13,000 people died every year from Diphtheria. Unfortunately, not everyone takes advantage of these life-saving vaccines and in the past ten flu seasons, an average of 34,000 people in the U.S. die annually of influenza, some years as 12,000 per year and some as high as 56,000 influenza related deaths. Please vaccinate your family against influenza and make sure that you and your children are current on all other immunizations.
©Great Destinations Pediatrics 9/13/2017