Who should get the flu vaccine and why? Our medical analysts explain


Welcome to this yr’s flu season.

This yr’s flu strains are starting to unfold throughout the United States, in accordance with new knowledge from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been at the very least 880,000 circumstances of the flu, almost 7,000 hospitalizations, and tragically, 360 flu-related deaths this fall, together with one baby. Not since 2009, throughout the top of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, have there been so many early-season flu circumstances.

Despite these numbers, many individuals marvel if the flu can be a severe sickness. What are the advantages of the vaccine, particularly if some folks get the flu regardless of being vaccinated? Can you get the flu from a vaccine? If you get the Covid vaccine, do you continue to want the flu vaccine?

To information us by means of these and different questions, I spoke with CNN medical analyst Dr. Liana Wen is an emergency doctor, public well being professional, and professor of well being coverage and administration at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. He can also be the writer of Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Battle for Public Health.

CNN: Is the flu a severe sickness? What signs do folks expertise?

Dr. Liana Wen: It can definitely be severe. The CDC estimates that between 2010 and 2020, it will end in between 9 million and 41 million sicknesses in the US, between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations, and between 12,000 and 52,000 deaths.

Flu signs embrace fever, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, cough and runny nostril. Most folks get well inside a number of days, however some might really feel unwell for 10 days to 2 weeks after the onset of signs. Some develop issues reminiscent of sinus and ear infections, pneumonia and mind irritation. The flu may also exacerbate underlying medical circumstances – for instance, folks with power lung and coronary heart circumstances might expertise a worsening of their circumstances attributable to the flu.

The flu could make wholesome folks very sick. However, these at notably excessive danger embrace these 65 and older, kids below 2 years previous, pregnant girls, and folks with underlying medical circumstances.

CNN: What are the advantages of the vaccine, particularly if some folks get the flu even when they get the shot?

Wen: The flu vaccine does two issues. First and foremost, it reduces your probabilities of getting critically unwell, which means hospitalization or demise. Second, it might probably additionally cut back your probabilities of getting the flu.

It’s not that totally different from the Covid-19 vaccine in some methods. The fundamental purpose to get vaccinated in opposition to each the flu and the coronavirus is to forestall extreme sickness. New knowledge launched in the CDC’s newest morbidity and mortality report present that this yr’s flu vaccine lowered the danger of hospitalization by about 50%. A 2018 examine discovered that flu-related ICU admissions have been 59% decrease amongst individuals who had been vaccinated in opposition to the flu than those that had not been vaccinated.

The effectiveness of the vaccine can fluctuate relying on how properly the vaccine is appropriate with the circulating strains of influenza. The CDC cites the vaccine’s effectiveness in opposition to “medically acquired illness” as 23% to 61%, relying on the yr and the vaccine and pressure match. So it is true which you can get the flu shot and nonetheless get the flu. But the vaccine reduces your possibilities, and extra importantly, it makes you much less prone to get critically unwell.

Another factor to remember is that there are lots of different viruses that may trigger flu-like signs. The flu vaccine helps defend in opposition to viral infections brought on by influenza, however there are lots of different causes of viral syndromes, together with adenovirus, rhinovirus, parainfluenza, and others. These different viruses additionally unfold simply and there are not any vaccines for them. I typically hear of sufferers getting the flu the yr they bought the flu shot, so they do not wish to get vaccinated once more. But once I ask them in the event that they actually have been recognized with the flu or if they simply have flu-like signs, they are saying the latter.

CNN: Should kids and pregnant girls additionally get the flu vaccine?

Wen: Absolutely. These teams are at notably excessive danger, which is why it is so essential that they get the flu vaccine.

One examine discovered that the flu vaccine can cut back kids’s danger of extreme, life-threatening flu by 75%. Another lower flu-related emergency room visits in half in these kids.

Similar outcomes are seen in pregnant girls. The flu vaccine not solely protects the pregnant girl, but when the vaccine is given throughout being pregnant, it might probably assist defend the child from the flu in the first months of life. This is essential as a result of the flu vaccine will not be accessible for youngsters 6 months of age or older.

CNN: Can you get the flu from a vaccine?

Wen: A horse. The flu vaccine is an inactivated vaccine, which implies it doesn’t comprise a reside virus and due to this fact can not trigger the flu. It can also be a really well-tolerated vaccine, with the most typical facet impact being discomfort at the injection web site that disappears after a day.

CNN: If you have had the Covid-19 vaccine, do you continue to want the flu shot?

Wen: Yes. Different vaccines goal totally different viruses. The covid vaccine helps defend in opposition to covid however doesn’t defend in opposition to the flu and vice versa. You can get the Covid vaccine (or bivalent booster) at the identical time as the flu vaccine at a unique injection web site.

CNN: Some folks waited till late throughout flu season to get a flu shot. Is this a good suggestion?

Wen: In this case, no, as a result of this flu season has clearly began sooner than ordinary. Incidence is already excessive, and it takes about two weeks to attain optimum immune safety after vaccination. I might encourage individuals who have not gotten the flu shot to get it now.

CNN: What should folks find out about treating the flu?

Wen: Most circumstances of the flu might be handled symptomatically, which means sufferers relaxation, keep hydrated, and deal with rising signs with fever-reducing drugs reminiscent of acetaminophen or ibuprofen. There are additionally antiviral medication. These are particularly essential for people who find themselves liable to extreme flu issues and/or extreme sickness. The earlier such therapy is began, the higher. An oral remedy known as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) might be given inside 48 hours of the onset of signs, even in low-risk sufferers.

I might encourage everybody to have a flu plan, simply as everybody should have a Covid plan. Ask your physician earlier than taking Tamiflu or different antiviral therapy. Find out the best way to get examined and the place you may get therapy, together with after hours and weekends.

CNN: How can folks keep away from getting the flu?

Wen: The flu is especially unfold by means of droplets — if an contaminated particular person coughs or sneezes, these droplets might be unfold onto another person close by. Droplets may also land on the floor, the place somebody touches it and then will get contaminated after touching their nostril, mouth, or eyes.

We may help cut back the unfold of the flu by social distancing. We should all cough or sneeze into our elbow or a tissue and wash our fingers regularly, together with after touching hard-to-touch surfaces. People who’re notably susceptible to severe penalties should think about carrying a masks to cut back the probability of contracting viral sicknesses reminiscent of the flu. And after all, get vaccinated!


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