Flu Influenza Shots

A vaccine is a substance designed and administered to build up immunity against a certain disease, such as the flu. Generally, a vaccine contains a small amount of weakened or killed pathogen. When a vaccine is administered, the immune system becomes familiar with the characteristics of that disease and “learns” how to fight it, so that when the actual virus strikes, the body is familiar with it.

As a whole, humans are living longer and healthier due to childhood vaccinations. Common infections that used to kill, such as smallpox, no longer pose a threat because we can vaccinate against them. However, some people believe that vaccines have strong side effects and are not worth the risk.

Our Immune System

Our skin and mucous membranes serve as a physical barrier around our bodies, like a moat surrounding a castle. However, we need more than just our skin to be adequately protected from disease. White blood cells and other immune system components help rid the body of foreign organisms. To do this, they are able to distinguish foreign organisms from your own cells. Immunity is also adaptive, meaning that your body learns from past infections in order to mount an appropriate antibody response the next time. In other words, your body remembers the “bad guys” so that it can eliminate them easier the second time around.

The Flu Vaccine

During flu season, hospitals, schools and office buildings become ideal grounds in which the disease can be easily transmitted—with many people in close contact with one another, a virus like the flu can spread like wildfire. However, vaccinations thwart the spread of influenza viruses that cause the flu. Each year, scientists agree to put in three common strains of killed influenza viruses in the flu vaccine. These vaccines ramp up your immune system within two weeks, so when the real live virus strikes, your immune system will have antibodies ready to defend against it.

How Influenza Shots are Made - Flu Shots

The Swine Flu Vaccine

This flu season, healthcare professionals recommend that some high-risk groups have a normal flu vaccine, plus an additional H1N1 (“swine flu”) vaccine.

H1N1 is a pandemic strain of flu that can cause severe illness, and in some extreme cases, can result in fatal complications. Many hospitals provide mandatory flu and H1N1 vaccinations in order to protect their workers and patients. Although it is rare, these shots can have side effects—however, studies show that it is unlikely that you will experience severe side effects from any currently administered flu shot, though it’s common to experience pain and redness at the injection site.

Swine Flu Vaccine Side Effects

In the Centers for Disease Control’s latest report, there is no evidence of serious swine flu vaccine side effects. Most of the side effects are minor and include swelling, soreness, and low grade fever.

From April to December 2009, the swine flu affected about 22 million Americans, hospitalized about 98,000, and killed 4,000. These numbers alone illustrate how important it is to protect yourself from infection, including having timely vaccinations and enforcing sanitary measures.

Resources

CDC staff. (2009). Summary of 2009 monovalent H1N1 influenza vaccine data – Vaccine adverse event reporting system. Retrieved November 30, 2009, from the HHS Web site: http://vaers.hhs.gov/resources/2009H1N1Summary_Nov25.pdf.

Hanson, S. (2009). H1N1 shots’ benefits outweigh the risks. Retrieved November 30, 2009, from the Wheeling News-Register Web site: http://www.news-register.net/page/content.detail/id/530410.html?nav=515.

Jain, M. (2008).P atients can join the fight against flu without firing a shot. Retrieved November 30, 2009, from the Washington Post Web site: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/21/AR2008112103077.html.

Sherwood, B. (2009). Swine flu vaccine: Why you should stop worrying and roll up your sleeve. Retrieved November 30, 2009, from the Huffington Post Web site: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-sherwood/swine-flu-vaccine-why-you_b_344316.html.