In the fall of 2017, millions of people worldwide went to clinics and pharmacies, rolled up their sleeves, sat in a chair and experienced a small pinch, all in hopes of preventing the flu. Unfortunately, last year wasn’t a great year for those of us that got the vaccine: many of us did in fact end up getting the flu. Vaccines and immunizations make a complex topic and the way that the body uses them is quite fascinating.
Vaccines work thanks to our amazing immune systems. The human immune system comprises an abundance of processes, cells and organs that work attempt to fight off infections and bacteria. The immune system identifies the foreign body that has entered our system and builds antibodies that attempt to destroy it. Over time, the body is able fight off these bacteria and germs quicker than before–this is called building immunity. Taking a vaccine is essentially a way to kickstart that process to help us develop immunity before we get sick.
A vaccine is filled with dead (dormant) or weakened cells and bacteria that make up a virus. When the medicine is injected, antibodies travel to the immune system. Once they reach the system, the cells work to protect you from the disease and find antigens in the virus by treating the vaccine as if your immune systems came in contact with the flu. Although your body has come in contact with the flu, you won’t get sick.
By getting vaccinated, you’re reducing your chances of getting the virus in the future. Although it’s still possible to contract the flu if you do get the vaccine, it’ll be less severe and last for a shorter amount of time. According to Kids Health, vaccines are effective in 85% to 99% of cases, which is very high, although there’s 1% to 14% of cases where the vaccine is claimed to be ineffective. Often times when a vaccine is ineffective, it is the result of vaccine failure or other unlucky factors. Vaccine failure is more common than one might think, it is caused by the immune system not being able to produce the antibodies after the immunization. As a result of this the person who was vaccinated will end up getting the flu anyways.
Last year’s flu season was record breaking and not in a good way. According to CNN, there were an estimated 80,000 deaths in the USA due to influenza and its complications. It was the deadliest flu season in over four decades. Medical professionals have stated that last year’s vaccine was only around 40% effective, which explains why it was so deadly.
So what’s in store for those of us that get the flu vaccine this year? Healthcare officials predict each year what vaccines will be the most prominent in that year. According to the FDA they’ve found the flu strains for this year that includes H1N1 and H3N2 strains, along with many others. There’s no given estimate for the length of the flu season or how severe the virus will be. However based on past trends it’s safe to say that this year’s flu season can last anywhere from October to May, and even though there’s still a chance that failure can occur, it’s worth a fight because 60% protection is still higher than none. By getting vaccinated you’re doing yourself and the others around you a huge favor.
When you get immunized you contribute to herd immunity. All viruses attack us together as a group and have a ripple effect: when one person comes in contact with a virus it’ll spread and go from person to person and the amount of people that get infected rapidly increases.
Vaccines provide protection for us and for the others around us, such as babies, pregnant women, elderly and others who may have weak immune systems. By having a weaker immune system, it takes longer for your body to recover from illness and your body requires more work to fight off viruses and this can sometimes lead to death. Babies can be exposed to sickness at a very young age, because of this when pregnant, the mother should always be vaccinated for things such as the flu so her and the baby will be protected. If the mother was to catch the flu, her baby would also be affected by it also. Moreover, if the mother was breastfeeding and had the flu vaccine, the antibodies would be passed to her baby.
Not only do vaccines build up the immune system, they also lower the risk of diseases reoccuring and attacking society. Even though vaccine failure can occur with vaccines, the percentage is low and it’s still worth a shot for protection. Vaccines in general and more specifically the flu vaccine should be a step in protecting everyone. For your best protection, make sure to get your flu shot!
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