Flu shot: principle, side effects and possible complications

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If you are not vaccinated and get sick

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You should know that acute respiratory viral infections are caused by hundreds of thousands of viruses. These infections do not require specific treatment. You yourself remember the symptoms: fever, nasal congestion, general weakness. Doctors recommend only drinking plenty of water and symptomatic treatment. Bring down the temperature only if it is above 38.5 degrees. As a rule, most people in the autumn-winter season face similar infections.

Things get more complicated when it comes to the deadly virus, the flu. Here, according to experts, vaccination becomes the only way to protect. From the moment of vaccination to the moment of formation of specific immunity against the influenza virus, it takes from three to four weeks. TV presenter and doctor Elena Malysheva constantly repeats: this is the best thing you can do for the body. If you refused vaccination and fell ill, then within a day you should start taking two drugs – Tamiflu or Relenza. “These are the only drugs included in the WHO list as drugs that treat influenza. There are no other ways, ”the TV presenter emphasizes.

We asked another expert how a vaccine is made in principle and whether it is certain that it will protect against new strains that appear every season.

How the flu vaccine is made

“The antigenic composition of the influenza vaccine changes every year in accordance with the epidemic situation and WHO recommendations. The organization has a network of laboratories – 149 National Influenza Laboratories in 121 countries, which, during epidemics, isolate strains from patients, study antigenic and genetic properties, and determine the most relevant of them. Based on the data collected, an analysis of the situation over the past season is carried out and it is determined which virus occurred most often or was presented slightly at the beginning of the season, and by the end was the most common (turned out to be the most adapted). In the next season, the virus will be very similar to the one that dominated at the end of the last one. With the help of antigenic and genetic analysis, as well as mathematical modeling, they decide whether to change the strains in the vaccine.

Seasonal vaccine meetings are held twice a year to select candidate strains for inclusion in influenza vaccines. In February for the northern hemisphere, in September for the southern. As part of this meeting, vaccine strains of the virus are selected for the next season. The flu vaccine is new every year. Even if it contains the same subtypes of influenza A or the same influenza B line, this does not mean that these viruses are identical to last year’s. This year, WHO has replaced three components at once in the recommended influenza vaccines for the 2020/2021 epidemic season for the Northern Hemisphere.

What is a quadrivalent vaccine

In many developed countries, today they are switching to a quadrivalent influenza vaccine, that is, containing two current strains A and two current strains of influenza B. The domestic quadrivalent vaccine was registered with the Ministry of Health in July 2019.

If you have been vaccinated in a timely manner and met with an influenza virus that matches the structure of one of those from which the vaccine was made, then you will not get sick. But there is always a certain chance that you will come across a different version of the virus, and then the vaccine will be ineffective. The WHO forecast does not always come true. But if not vaccinated at all, then the risk of getting sick is much higher. The flu vaccine will not protect you against other acute respiratory viral infections. In the instructions for the vaccine, it is usually written that “after vaccination, immunity lasts from 6 to 12 months.” In reality, antibodies live much longer, they just become unsuitable for meeting new variants of the virus.

Contraindications and risk group

The most dangerous influenza for children under 5 years of age, the elderly and pregnant women, as well as persons in a state of immunosuppression (immunodeficiencies of various nature, cancer patients after chemotherapy / radiation, receiving corticosteroid therapy, etc.). They all need to be vaccinated first. Healthy adults are less likely to experience complications or death as a result of this infection, but can infect others at risk, so it’s best to vaccinate them if possible, thereby reducing the chances of getting sick for their vulnerable environment.

The only absolute contraindication to the use of influenza vaccines is a documented hypersensitivity to the components of the vaccine. Usually identified as a result of a previous dose of vaccine. Allergic and even anaphylactic reactions to chicken protein are not now considered as a contraindication for influenza vaccination, but it is still worth warning the doctor about this before vaccination.

Influenza vaccines can be given at the same time as any other vaccines. Preparations without preservatives are produced for children and pregnant women. The minimum allowed age for vaccination is 6 months.

Protection against respiratory viruses

In addition, having a flu shot does not protect against other respiratory viruses. Therefore, do not forget about additional preventive measures. Experts recommend multivitamins, rinsing the nose, as well as well-known hygiene measures: regular handwashing, wearing a mask in public places, airing, wet cleaning, regular walks and physical activity – all this will help strengthen the body when faced with an infection.

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