Why You Need a New Flu Shot Annually

Flu Shot, Joshua Medical Group, Palmdale

Unlike the shot to protect you against chickenpox or the measles, which can be administered in childhood and pretty much forgotten about, you need a flu shot every year to protect yourself against this common virus. This isn’t the fault of the flu vaccine. You need yearly protection because the flu virus continually mutates, so last year’s vaccine is probably pretty useless against this year’s strain.

The role of a vaccine

Any vaccine contains a small amount of the virus or bacteria that causes the disease. When you receive this small amount of specific strains of influenza, or the flu, your immune system creates protection against it in the form of antibodies. So if the real virus attacks your body, it knows how to respond before you fall ill.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone 6 months old and older get a flu shot yearly. An annual vaccination reduces the risk of flu-related illnesses, hospitalizations, and flu-related death in children.

The flu virus is hard to pin down

The problem with the flu vaccine is that when you receive it, your body does build up antibodies — but only to the version present in the vaccine you got. As the flu morphs, which viruses do as a matter of survival, the antibodies your body created in response to the flu shot no longer work.

Usually these alterations in the flu virus happen seasonally, but any number of flu virus strains can be present in a given year. Researchers who develop the vaccine predict which ones will be most virulent and common when putting together the flu vaccine, but sometimes they predict incorrectly. As a result, the flu vaccine is sometimes less effective in certain years than in others.

But a yearly vaccine gives you the best protection against the season’s predicted outbreak. Even if you should come down with the flu, you’re likely to experience milder symptoms and fewer complications if you’re vaccinated.

Steps to identify the flu virus

Each year, researchers from around the globe analyze data to determine which strains of the flu virus will be most common. Usually three or four strains are placed into the vaccine.

Unfortunately, the flu virus multiples and mutates to trick its host’s immune system. These mutations can spread quickly, which means the vaccine must change to stop them.

Your immune system plays a role

Your body’s immune system is not perfect. The strength of the antibodies produced in response to any given flu vaccine decline over time. You need a yearly shot to keep these antibodies fresh and your health optimally protected.

 

If you live in Palmdale, California, or the surrounding communities, visit us at Joshua Medical Group to receive your flu shot. Flu season runs from October until early May. You should aim to get your shot before the end of October, but getting a shot later is still a good idea. You can benefit and receive protection even if you get a vaccination as late as January.

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