Daily Archives: October 28, 2011

Should I get the flu vaccine this year?


Although, the 2011-2012 combination in the flu vaccine, is the same as the 2010-2011, an effective way you can protect yourself against a flu virus infection is through vaccination.

The Flu Virus

However, current vaccination approaches rely on achieving a good match between circulating flu virus strains and the isolates included in the vaccine formulation.  The recommendation is made by the World Health Organization  collaborating centers. Such a match is often difficult due to a combination of factors, one being that the recommendations are made six months prior to the initiation of the flu season, and the flu viruses are constantly undergoing change.

What if the formulation of the vaccine this year is the same as the previous year? The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advice that for optimal protection it is safest to get vaccinated against the flu every year. The CDC recommends all people above six months get vaccinated annually; especially the young and the elderly and gives information specific to the 2011-2012 season, including the vaccine formulation, which is exactly the same as the 2010-2011 combination, but is different from the 2009-2010 and earlier combinations. Some non-vaccinated people got quite ill and weak for a very long time in the fall of 2009 from what could have been the H1N1 flu. The vaccinated people apparently were protected or only had mild flu-like symptoms and lost little productive time.

Get vaccinated annually: A Boston.com article by a Globe staff, Deborah Kotz, gives a simple explanation why one needs to get immunized annually in spite of the same combination of strains in the vaccine. If you are naturally infected by the flu virus, your body can retain that immune memory for a life-time. On the other hand, when you are vaccinated by the same flu virus, your body’s immune memory becomes weaker over time, and we do not know currently whether you will have an appropriate immune response if infected next year.

According the CDC, certain people should get advice on whether they should get vaccinated; especially those with egg allergy or latex allergy.

If you have an egg allergy:

A Scientist Cultivating the Flu vaccine in Live Eggs - A labor intensive effort

When you have to make a decision about getting a flu vaccine, which is the vaccine currently grown only in egg in most countries, then you should seriously consider medical supervision because you may have options. They are rather limited in the USA versus Europe and I have detailed current strategies in a previous article on flu vaccination and egg allergy.  The options in Europe are quite different from those currently available in the USA. You may also read “Next generation of flu vaccines coming of age: Cell – based technology may replace egg – based flu vaccines“, by Teddi Dineley Johnson.

What is the combination in the 2011-2012 flu Vaccine? There is an international effort to create that single, life-time flu vaccine, but until then the vaccine combination will need to be reassessed every year. The 2011-2012 combination in the flu vaccine, which is the same as the 2010-2011,  is:

A/Cal/7/2009 (H1N1) – like

A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2) – like

B/Brisbane/60/2008 – like antigens

If you have a latex allergy: There is both the traditional injection version and a new, intradermal version vaccine available this year.  If you have a latex allergy you may want to take advice and choose a latex free version. The package insert says that the dermal version prefilled syringe tip caps (Fluzone) may contain natural rubber latex to which you may have an allergic reaction if you are allergic to latex. The intradermal version is specially designed to not hurt at all, unlike a needle in the arm version, which many find painful. Either way, your choice of vaccination this year will have the same combination of flu virus.

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