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 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.


Filed under Flu, Health

9 responses to “Should I get the flu vaccine this year?

  1. Pingback: Flu vaccination and egg allergy | Pursue natural

  2. Currently in Cambodia, they have been seeing a rare occurrence of people being infected with dual cases of regular influenza and the H1N1 virus.

    When H1N1 first broke out, my family and I came down with it. Last year, on the BBC news website, there was a very interesting article regarding early data that showed those who had been exposed to H1N1 seemed to build up a super immunity to pig, avian and human flu viruses. My family and I seem to have built up some form of immunity as we haven’t had a single case of the various flu strains that have gone around since.

    Have you seen evidence of either of these occurrences and are American researchers aware of this new development regarding the dual flu infections going on in Cambodia? Would something like this be of concern to the general public worldwide?

    Sorry for all the questions… I’m a curious person and this actually is fascinating to me 😉

    • Dual flu infections:
      Australian scientists have discussed this “dual flu infection” phenomenon reported by Japanese scientists in 16 students.
      1) They reported that vaccination with the regular flu season vaccine resulted in a higher risk of infection with H1N1 and they give their scientific opinion on why that happened in some areas of the world and not in others.
      2) They hypothesize that a strand-transcending short-term immunity results. In other words, it is usually rare that two strains of influenza A attack in the same year and so close to the infection by the other strain. If the second strain attacks quickly after the first strain infects, then there is some transient immunity which protects; however, longer this gap this immunity wanes. So, by their theory, dual infections have a gap.

      Super immunity:
      This is the “holy grail” of flu scientists – to discover the one vaccine that will prevent all strains of flu. Apparently, natural survivors of the H1N1 infection may have a “super immunity” to all known Influenza A strains of the flu virus. A BBC article. describes Dr Patrick Wilson and his colleagues work on this. In my opinion, lets see what happens in the next few flu seasons.

      However, scientists caution that a vaccine developed to achieve similar “super immunity” results will have to undergo several years of clinical trials before being eligible to be marketed.

      Hoping this answers your two main questions, and I will keep updating as I learn more on this. I do know that this will be of immense commercial interest.

      • I was already familiar with the BBC article, but hadn’t come across the Australian one. Thank you for the link as it is very interesting to see the correlation between the vaccine and increased incidence of dual infection with seasonal outbreaks of H1N1. I will definitely have to study it further and look forward to the updates that you provide when you learn more. I do agree that all of this will be of immense commercial interest as well as of interest in the scientific community.

  3. mlh30504

    Thank you for your prayers for my dad. I’m happy to have gotten a link back to your blog. Very informative!

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