5 Things to Understand About the 2014 Flu Vaccine

On December 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an alert of a potential drift in this year’s flu vaccine. Since then, there’s been a lot of conversation and questions about how effective the 2014-2015 flu vaccine is at protecting people from the flu.

To help answer questions that you might have, here's a list of five commonly asked questions and what you should know about each of them.  

1. What does it mean when there’s been a “drift” in this year’s flu virus?

“Drift” is another way to say there’s been a mismatch between the vaccine created and the viruses circulating. Each year health officials from the World Health Organization look at data from across the world to anticipate what the prominent strains of the virus may be for the upcoming flu season.

Based on that data available, a U.S. vaccine advisory committee selects the strains of the virus most likely to appear in the U.S. and vaccines get created to protect people against them.

In the 2014-2015 flu season, the prominent strain of the virus in the community is Influenza A, subtype A/H3N2. This strain of the virus is a slight drift from the virus anticipated and used to create the vaccine. It’s estimated that about half of the viruses in communities match the vaccine created.

2. Is this the first time a drift has ever happened?

No. A drift in the flu virus compared to the anticipated vaccine is fairly common.

3. Will there be a new vaccine created for this year’s flu season?

No. It can take a long time to create a new flu vaccine. So what will happen is data from this year’s flu season will be used to predict the types of strains that may appear in the 2015-2016 flu season.

4. Does the flu shot I received work?

It’s important to understand that the flu shot is not 100 percent effective. It is, however, your best defense against getting the flu and saving other people from catching it.

The flu vaccine that you received this year is still effective and will help you fight off other strains of influenza aside from the H3N2 strain.

There’s also a good chance that if you catch the flu after getting vaccinated, you will have a much milder case of it. That’s even more important when the flu is aggressive, as this year’s virus appears to be.

5. If I haven’t gotten my flu shot yet, should I still get it?

Yes. As noted above, your best protection against the flu and protecting others from getting it is to get vaccinated. If you’re one of the five groups of people who have a higher risk of getting very sick from the flu, it’s especially important. The group includes children, seniors, pregnant women, and those with chronic illnesses and weakened immune systems from disease or medication.

Other actions you can take to protect yourself from the flu

Aside from getting a flu shot, one of the best ways you can protect yourself from the flu is to make healthy lifestyle choices. To learn about things that you can do, check out our blog article on 5 natural ways to avoid the cold and flu.

If you’re someone who has a higher than average risk of getting really sick from the flu, make sure you contact your doctor at the first sign of it. You may be eligible for the antiviral medication that can shorten the time-frame and severity of it.

Meet the Author

Kathy Leonhardt, MD, MPH is the Vice President of Clinical Quality at Aurora Health Care.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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