Question: I heard even though the flu vaccine missed the target this year it is still a good idea to get one because it stays in your system and could work for strains not covered in next year’s vaccine. Is that true?
Here’s my response:
The flu vaccine was less than 50% effective this year. And that happens. Sometimes those in charge of making the vaccines guess the wrong strains. It’s just not possible to know with certainty what’s going to circulate in the coming flu season. Okay, so they missed this year, but if you get vaccinated, there’s still potential that you may be infected with one of the strains covered in the vaccine, be protected, and never get sick. According to the CDC, analysis of the circulating flu viruses for this season indicate that most H3N2 viruses showing up in sick people are different from the H3N2 strain in the vaccine. But, there is evidence that the vaccine will work well for about 1/3 of the H3N2 strains circulating, and should offer good protection against the H1N1 and influenza B viruses.
Also, if you get the vaccine and catch a strain different from what’s in the vaccine, it is possible that your body will catch it quicker, make a faster response, and you won’t get quite as sick as you would without the vaccine.
I’d never skip the flu vaccine no matter how effective (or this year, ineffective) it’s said to be. I’d protect myself and my family from getting sick no matter how little the coverage the vaccine may offer, because the flu can and does kill, especially small children. As far as coverage for next year’s flu…there’s not much. The flu vaccine’s coverage only lasts maybe five months. And the flu virus changes so much from year to year. You really need to get it every year to be fully covered.
Please check out my influenza series for lots of great information:
What is Influenza (“the flu”)?
The Influenza Virus: Why Do We Keep Getting It?
The Seasonal Influenza Virus Vaccine