The Benefits and Risks of Influenza Vaccinations
Influenza Vaccine Efficacy
Influenza is a potentially serious virus that can lead to many health issues and diseases that can result in hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently. Each year, millions of people get the flu and hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and or die from the flu.
An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu. Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death in children. The influenza vaccine is manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry each year and the contents of the vaccine changes as the influenza virus mutates. Therefore, the influenza vaccine is only effective for one season, thereby requiring the population to obtain annual flu shots.
The CDC recommends annual influenza vaccinations for everyone age 6 months or older. The flu shot is especially important for people at high risk of influenza complications, including pregnant women, older adults, young children, those who work in high risk industries such as healthcare and daycare. Children between 6 months and 8 years may need two doses of the flu vaccine, given at least four weeks apart, to be fully protected. A 2017 study showed that the vaccine significantly reduces a child's risk of dying from the flu.
Influenza Vaccine Risks
No matter which pharmaceutical company manufactures the vaccine, the flu shot has a different effectiveness each year. For the 2018-2019 flu season, data collected from November 23, 2018 through February 2, 2019 estimated that the flu vaccine has reduced the risk of medically attended acute respiratory virus infection by 47%. Prior years have had much lower rates even reaching into the 20-30% range. In 2017, the CDC estimated that the flu shot was approximately 40% effective. In 2014, the flu shot was only 19% effective, signaling that researchers failed to identify the influenza virus strains that would be prevalent during the flu season.
Since the influenza vaccine is a pharmaceutical drug, it is not without its own side effects and adverse reactions. Each person is different with how they react to the flu shot. Some will suffer no side effects, others will experience hives or rashes, and a small percent of the population can experience a variety of autoimmune reactions or orthopedic shoulder injuries. The most common autoimmune diseases associated with the flu shot are Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), transverse myelitis, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), vasculitis, myositis, polymyositis, dermatomyositis, Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO), and immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).
Adverse Risks with Other Vaccines
The flu shot is not the only vaccine that has risks associated with it. The following vaccines are administered on a daily basis and have risks associated with them: Tdap, Dtap, Td, Varicella, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, MMR, PCV7, PCV10, PCV13, HPV vaccine, and meningococcal conjugate vaccines.
The second most common vaccine associated with adverse events and autoimmune diseases is the tetanus toxoid vaccine. Several vaccines protect against tetanus, all of which also protect against other diseases:
DTaP protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough)
DT protects against diphtheria and tetanus
Tdap protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis
Td protects against tetanus and diphtheria
Another commonly administered vaccine is the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), which is a conjugate vaccine used to protect infants, young children, and adults against disease caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus). There are currently three types of PCV available on the market today: Prevnar (PCV7), Synflorix (PCV10) and Prevnar 13 (PCV13).
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