This year is already shaping up to be one of the worst years for flu in the last decade – and winter hasn’t even hit yet!
According to the Centre for Disease control and Prevention, more than 22,000 flu cases have been reported in the last three months, compared to less than 1,000 during the same time last year.
Health authorities are encouraging us to get our flu vaccinations as soon as possible, amid fears the dreaded flu season could be hitting the northern hemisphere earlier than usual.
But, with so much information flying at us, some of which sell disadvantages of the vaccine, a vast majority of people will forgo the preventative measure and brave the odds this year. To help you make an informed decision, we’ve decided to answer some frequently asked questions on getting the flu shot:
Why should I get the flu vaccine?
Flu is one of the most common causes of hospitalisation for young children – with the virus spreading quite easily through schools and childcare facilities. The ill, elderly and pregnant women are also at a higher risk. Recently, a more severe strain of influenza has been detected in the northern hemisphere, which could see flu cases triple – hence authorities prompting us to get our shots early this year.
Does it work?
The national Influenza Centre says the flu vaccine can reduce the chance of serious illness and hospitalisation by 50 to 80 per cent in some cases. They believe we can all benefit from preventive measures as the illness can result in significant time off work and easily spread to vulnerable family members and friends.
What are the side effects; can the flu shot give me the flu?
Many will avoid getting the shot for fear that they will get sick as a result. While there are many such myths floating around, the flu vaccine in fact contains no live virus – so it can’t give you the flu. However, as with all vaccinations, there can be some mild side effects. These include swelling at the injection site, muscle aches and pains or tiredness.
Do I still need to get the flu shot if I received a vaccine last year?
The simple answer is yes. Your immunity will decrease over time and the flu vaccination is needed each year to ensure you continue to be protected – think of it like a booster. Generally, a shot will only safeguard you against flu for that year. Another important point to note is that the influenza virus changes from year to year and as a result the vaccination composition is changed to match the strains circulating the globe and those predicted by experts to be hitting the community.
When is the best time to get the flu shot?
Early autumn is recommended as the best time to get your shot. It will give your body enough time to allow for your immunity to be strengthened before the flu season starts – keep in mind this takes two weeks!
Is it safe?
The flu shot is safe for pregnant women at all stages of their pregnancy. Children can be vaccinated from 6 months of age and all vaccines undergo safety testing. However, CSL Fluvax® is not recommended for children under 5 years of age! Children with chronic medical conditions are at a greater risk of severe health complications from the flu, so the vaccine is an important consideration.
Always consult with your GP or health professional and seek further advice if you are concerned about the flu or flu vaccine.