Every year, people are urged to be vaccinated against the influenza virus. Because influenza is seasonal, with peak periods in the winter months, the vaccines are given in the fall. Each year, a new vaccine is produced to combat the prevailing virus. Because the virus is constantly changing, a new vaccine is necessary each year. In order to effectively prevent the flu, vaccines need to be given before the peak period begins, as it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to offer protection. The vaccine does not offer 100% protection; however, it will reduce the severity of the illness and prevent complications.
Many people often complain that the flu vaccine gives them the flu; therefore, they refuse to take it. However, there has not been a documented case of vaccine-induced flu. In fact, the vaccines are made from inactivated (not “live”) viral material, which cannot cause the flu. However, most people may have minor reactions, such as soreness at the injection site, and some people may react even more strongly against some agent in the vaccine. This may mislead them to think they suffered the flu as a consequence of the vaccine. Alternatively, they may have already started getting the flu at the time of the vaccine. Remember, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to be effective.
The most common side effect of the vaccine is a very sore arm. Some may experience mild flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and malaise. Others may have a headache, muscle aches and pains, or low-grade fever. Rarely,
people may experience numbness/tingling in their extremities with weakness. This may be a sign of Guillain-Barre syndrome and they should consult a physician. Any respiratory difficulties warrants emergency evaluation.
Although it is recommended that everyone get the vaccine, only the elderly, young children, and those with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart conditions, asthma and other respiratory problems, are strongly urged to be vaccinated. These people are the most vulnerable and may suffer severe consequences as a result of getting flu. On the other hand, normal healthy adults are advised to be vaccinated in order to reduce the socioeconomic burden from lost work days.
Those with allergies to eggs or documented allergies to any component of the vaccine should not be vaccinated. It is possible that those with severe symptoms of “flu” after receiving the vaccine may have had an allergic reaction.