Why have a vaccination?

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Influenza, generally known as the flu, is caused by the influenza virus. Almost every one of us has experienced flu at some point in our life. Common symptoms of flu include high fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscular pains, headaches, coughing, sneezing, and tiredness.

 The good news is, a flu patient usually recovers within a week. But sometimes, it gets severe, and the patient needs to be hospitalized. The flu virus spreads real fast and easily even through physical touch (like a handshake, etc.). When a person, infected by flu, sneezes, or coughs, they transfer thousands of viruses into their surroundings through droplets.

If someone stands close to them, these viruses might land directly on another person’s skin, or mouth, but more often, they end up landing on nearby objects such as furniture. But the flu virus is a tough guy, and it can stand alone and survive for hours in the environment. To worsen the matter, people can spread the virus even a day before showing the flu symptoms by themselves and continue transferring the virus up to two weeks after recovery.

So, if you don’t want to fall prey to influenza and don’t want your family, friends, and co-workers to get sick for a week or so, you must go for “flu vaccination.” Vaccination is the most effective and reliable way to stay safe and can be done easily through an injection or nasal spray.

These vaccines usually contain a mixture of three weakened or inactivated influenza virus strains that are predicted to dominate for a specific season. As influenza viruses transform rapidly, these vaccines are updated twice a year.

So how well do these vaccines work? Well, it depends. Firstly, high-risk individuals such as pregnant women, individuals with a chronic health condition, or those under 6 months or over 65 years of age are more susceptible to the flu despite vaccination.

Secondly, since the flu vaccine is based on predictions, some years are better than others. A flu vaccine can reduce the risk of getting sick by 40% to 60% among the overall population during the flu seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well matched to the predictions. 

Remember that the flu can do more than making you feel terrible. In some cases, the flu can cause serious injury, even death. Also, it’s worth recalling the most recent flu season in Australia. In the year 2019, there were 310,011 confirmed cases of Influenza in Australia. Approximately 4200 people lost their lives due to influenza in 2019.

Therefore, the more people in a community get vaccinated against the flu, the fewer people will contract and spread the flu.  This protects those that are unable get vaccinated, like infants under six months of age. This is called herd immunity. Because the herd means “protecting the weakest members.”

In short, a yearly flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over six months old, with only a few exceptions. It’s not usually recommended for people with life-threatening egg allergies or for the people having a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

Since the flu season generally begins in Autumn and peaks in Winter. So, it’s a good idea to get vaccinated by the end of March. The vaccine still gives protection even if you get it later in the season. At least you should aim to have a vaccination before Easter.

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