Why is There a New Flu Vaccine Every Year?

It’s that time of year again, and the holiday season is soon to arrive. Unfortunately, so is the flu. In fact, in many areas, the flu is already beginning its assault. There are ways to protect your family from this year’s deadly flu, the best protection being an annual flu shot. Because the flu virus changes from year to year, there’s a different vaccine created for each flu season, so that’s why you need another shot.

At Family Medical Clinic in Soldotna, Alaska, we believe in providing individuals and families throughout the area with a full range of medical care, including the flu vaccine. Our caring staff combines experience with compassion, to offer our community the best medical care, from pediatrics to geriatrics and everything in between.

How the flu vaccine protects you

Influenza -- the flu -- is the term used to describe a viral infection that’s highly contagious. It attacks the respiratory system, including the nose, throat, and lungs and has the ability to cause a myriad of complications.

Although the flu virus presents at around the same time each year (and isn’t to be confused with the “stomach flu”, which is a virus that attacks the gastrointestinal system), the type of virus changes from year to year. That’s why the flu shot you got last year won’t work against this year’s flu bug.

A flu vaccine is an injection that puts bits and pieces of the inactive virus directly into your system. These bits and pieces have been lab-altered in such a way that you won’t become sick with the flu, but your body will go on alert and build antibodies to respond specifically to the influenza virus in the vaccine. When the full-blown virus hits you, your body is ready to do battle, protecting you from the actual flu.

Every year there’s a “new model”

There are two very good reasons why you need to get a new flu vaccine every year. First of all, as stated above, the virus strains change from year to year. The types of flu viruses that sent over 30,000 people to the hospital last year will have morphed into something completely new this year, and each year hereafter. If you had a flu shot last year, that’s great! However, roll up your sleeve, because you need another one to protect against this year’s influenza viruses.

The second reason you need a new flu vaccine every year is to protect the vulnerable groups in your family and community. Although it’s wise and polite to cough and sneeze into your elbow and wash your hands thoroughly and often, the flu is quite virulent.

While many people who come down with the flu feel completely awful with congestion, fever, sore throat, etc., they’re usually able to recover with no lasting damage. Infants, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems, such as those suffering from HIV, cancer, or many other conditions, can experience dire complications from the flu. If someone in an already weakened state contracts the flu, it can quickly become pneumonia, which is life-threatening.

Nearly everyone can get a flu vaccine

Protect yourself and your family this year, and every year, by scheduling a flu shot at Family Medical Clinic. This year’s flu vaccine offers protection against at least three of the most virulent, anticipated influenza viruses. The vaccine is available for children as young as 6 months. Pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions, and healthy people age 65 and over are encouraged to get their flu vaccine this year.

There are really only a few groups who should not get the vaccine, according to the CDC: Infants younger than 6 months and people who are allergic to any of the vaccine’s ingredients.

If you have Guillain-Barré Syndrome, check with one of our providers before getting your flu vaccine. Also, if you feel ill in any way, let us know, because you may need to wait until you feel better before getting the shot.

We’ve served the Soldotna area with kindness, compassion, and expert medical knowledge for generations, and are available to take care of your family’s medical needs. To schedule a flu vaccine, contact our office today.

Image: Pixabay

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