As the weather gets colder you might be noticing a marked increase in coughs, sniffles, sneezes, and runny noses in your social circles. This is because flu season is back again, and its effects can be seen throughout most of the continental U.S. Getting a flu shot has long been standard operating procedure, with many schools even offering vaccinations to students on-site.
This year, however, has brought about a newfound focus on vaccines as a whole, brought about by the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine. All the discussion may have left you wondering about the flu vaccine, and we want to set the record straight with the answers to some frequently asked questions.
How Effective Are Flu Vaccines?
The influenza virus has been around for many decades, and the flu vaccination has its own long history. The first record of a flu vaccine comes in the 1940s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the years since the vaccine development, they have kept records on the effectiveness of the yearly flu shot. These studies reveal that flu vaccines reduce the risk of illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during flu seasons.
Even with the annual studies it is important to note that effectiveness can vary, and it is influenced by outside factors such as age and overall health. In addition to lowering the chances for infection, the flu shot offers even more benefits. These include a decreased severity of the flu if contracted, as well as lower hospitalization rates. These benefits are even greater for children, chronically ill people, and pregnant individuals.
Why Do You Need a New Flu Vaccine Every Year?
There are two major reasons that a new flu shot is administered each year, according to the CDC. The first important factor to consider is that protection from the vaccine declines after time. So a booster of some sort would be needed after a year to maximize effectiveness.
The other big reason for a new vaccination is that the contents of the shot actually change as well. Each year, scientists examine the composition of the flu vaccine and update the formula to enhance effectiveness. This is important because different strains of the virus emerge each year and specific vaccinations are required to combat these variants.
Should I Still Be Getting a Flu Shot in 2021?
The short answer is yes. The flu is just as prevalent in 2021 as it has been in years past. Just because COVID-19 is still lingering doesn’t mean that this virus will wait its turn. The best bet to protect your personal health and safety is to get vaccinated for both COVID-19 and the flu.
One might even say getting the flu vaccine is even more important this year. Keeping flu patients out of the hospital will help ensure beds and care workers are available if the number of COVID-19 patients increases this fall and winter. So getting the flu shot is also like giving a helping hand to our healthcare heroes.