LiveScience– Health officials recommend that everyone 6 months and older, with a few exceptions, get a flu shot each year.
Yet, the flu vaccine is far from foolproof, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If that’s the case, why should you get it?
On average, people who get the flu shot are between 40% and 60% less likely to catch the virus than unvaccinated individuals.
So, although the flu shot may not prevent all cases of influenza, it helps protect you from severe infection and death and can help reduce the spread of the virus in communities.
Each year from 2010 to 2020, between 12,000 and 52,000 people in the U.S. died of flu, and between 140,000 and 710,000 were hospitalized, according to the CDC.
“Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection.” – CDC
The CDC says that 80% of children who die from the flu are unvaccinated, though there isn’t data on vaccination status of adults who die from the flu.
Katherina Grusich, a spokesperson for the CDC, told Live Science:
“Only about half of Americans get an annual flu vaccine. Many more people could be protected from flu if more people got vaccinated.”
How does the flu shot work?
The flu vaccine prompts the body to create antibodies against influenza, which primes the immune system to fight the virus the next time it sees it.
The flu vaccine is available in several forms, some of which work better for specific populations. For example, most flu shots are given as inactivated vaccines, which contain dead virus. The nasal spray vaccine, though, contains a weakened version of a live flu virus, according to the CDC.
“All current flu vaccines in the United States are ‘quadrivalent’ vaccines, which means they protect against four different flu viruses: two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses,” Grusich said.
The four flu strains included in the seasonal flu vaccine are chosen based on those that are circulating in the Southern Hemisphere during their seasonal flu outbreaks, according to the CDC.