Posts tagged with "Flu shot"

Give it a shot: Why you need to get the flu shot during the pandemic

September 14, 2020

Even if you usually would be as likely to get a flu shot as to get shot out of a cannon, 2020has become the year for you to step up, grit your teeth, put on your favorite face mask, and get vaccinated, Bustle medical expert Dr. Julia Blank, a board-certified family physican in Pacific Palisades, California, tells us. :

Never done it before? Make this year a first, Dr. Blank advises.

Why? Because the 2020-21 flu shot is expected to be effective at keeping people from getting the flu—and is our best bet, if we want to keep our healthcare system from being overwhelmed by flu and COVID-19 patients at once.

“It’s important to get the flu vaccine this year for several reasons,” Dr. Blank recently said during an interview with Bustle.. For one, she says, immunity from the previous vaccine wanes in about six months, so it won’t protect you from year to year.

“It’s important to boost your body’s production of antibodies each flu season,” she says. On top of that, the flu itself evolves season to season; last year’s vaccine won’t protect you as well against this year’s strain. “The flu vaccine is updated each flu season to better match the surveillance data about which strains of flu virus are currently circulating and predicted to circulate during the coming season,” Dr. Blank says.

In the winter of 2018-19, around 490,600 people in the U.S. had to be hospitalized for flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. As of September 8, over 380,000 people had been hospitalized for COVID-19 in the United States, according to the COVID Tracking Project. 

“If we see a large rise in serious flu and COVID cases at the same time, this fall and winter, our health system may become overwhelmed, and this in turn may lead to greater morbidity and mortality,” Dr. Blank says. Getting vaccinated is also useful for diagnostic purposes. If you’ve had the flu vaccine and then later wake up with a fever and a cough, your doctor can send you off for a COVID-19 test quick smart.

The most common flu vaccine is quadrivalent, Bustle reports—meaning that it targets four separate strains of flu. Each quadrivalent vaccine protects against two A-types of flu and two B-types. A-types are found in both humans and animals, while B-types affect only humans.

Dr. Blank says three of those vaccines have been updated for the 2020 flu season, based on what strains have developed over the past 12 months. (If you’re allergic to egg, you’ll get a slightly different type of flu shot, but your doctor will talk you through what that means for your immunity.) 

Five centers for flu surveillance around the world—in London, Beijing, Atlanta, Melbourne, and Tokyo—coordinate twice a year to pool their research on emerging flu strains in order to develop the vaccine for the following season. They coordinate flu shots for both hemispheres, based on the strains that are popping up.

How effective the 2020 flu shot is likely won’t be known until later in the season, once it’s had time to do its thing. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study in 2019 found that the vaccine that year was 39% effective for all age groups, and 42% effective for people over 50. The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that vaccines for the most common A-type and B-type flus are between 30 and 60% effective every year on average.

Getting the flu shot isn’t a 100% guarantee that you won’t get the flu. It only targets the most common varieties, and if a less-common strain starts circulating, you’re not protected against it. But even if you do get the flu after getting the vaccine, research shows that it reduces the likelihood of severe symptoms by 40 to 60%, making it a good investment for your health.

Research contact: @bustle

Double duty: Annual flu shot also may reduce risk of heart attack

March 14, 2019

Now there’s another good reason to get your annual flu shot. A study conducted at Icahn School of Medicine  at Mount Sinai in New York City has found that, not only can the vaccine protect you from influenza; it may even prevent you from having a heart attack, Medical News Net reports.

The research initiative—which will be discussed at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session, in New Orleans from March 16 to 18—involved searching through nearly 30 million hospital records.

What the clinicians found was that people who got a flu shot while hospitalized had a 10% lower risk of having a heart attack that year; compared to people who visited a hospital, but did not get the vaccine during their stay.

The study is the largest to date to investigate the relationship between the influenza vaccination and heart attacks. The findings are consistent with previous research suggesting getting a flu vaccine can reduce a person’s risk of major cardiovascular problems.

“You don’t need to be a medical professional to see this data and understand the importance of getting the flu vaccine,” said the study’s lead author Mariam Khandaker, MD, an internal medicine resident at Icahn School of Medicine. “The flu vaccine should be considered primary prevention for heart attack, just like controlling your blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol.”

Drawing on a data set known as the National Inpatient Sample, the researchers analyzed the records of nearly 30 million adult patients who visited a hospital in the United States in 2014. They divided patients into those who had received a flu vaccine while hospitalized during that year and those who had not. They then analyzed the proportion of each group who, at any point in 2014, visited the hospital for either a heart attack or unstable angina, chest pain caused by a partial blockage of the heart’s arteries.

About 2% of patients had received a flu shot while hospitalized and 98% had not (the data set did not include flu shots received outside of a hospital setting). Of those who had not received a flu vaccine, 4% had a heart attack or unstable angina. Of those who had gotten the flu shot, only 3% had a heart attack or unstable angina.

This is a statistically significant difference due to the large size of the data set. In particular, the vaccinated patients had about 5,000 fewer cases of heart attacks than would have been expected without the vaccine. After adjusting for several confounding variables, vaccination was associated with a 10% reduction in the risk of having a heart attack.

Heart attacks and unstable angina occur when plaque breaks free from the lining of a blood vessel and creates a clog in one or more of the heart’s arteries, fully or partially blocking the flow of blood to the heart. Having the flu can cause inflammation in the blood vessels, which increases the likelihood that plaque will rupture. The flu can also cause physiological effects, such as decreased oxygen supply and increased heart rate, which can exacerbate existing heart conditions.

“By getting the flu vaccine, you can help to prevent this cascade of events from taking place and, thus, prevent a heart attack,” Khandaker said. “While a person can still contract some strains of influenza even after getting a flu shot, the vaccine can lower the severity of the illness and, thus, still potentially help to prevent a heart attack.”

Research contact: jamesives@azonetwork.com