OPINION: Get Yourself a Flu Vaccine

By Anna Chuo, Morale Officer

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It’s that time of year again! The temperatures are dropping, the leaves are falling, and the seasonal flu virus is back. Flu season tends to begin at the beginning of November and peaks around February. But what makes the flu such a big deal? And why should we get a vaccine every year?

The flu is a human influenza virus, which will annually spread from person to person during the fall and winter. The types of flu circulating, A and B will be the cause of the seasonal epidemics. typically there are two subtypes of Type A that will cause infection. It also has different strains. In the past couple years, the predominant strains of Influenza A, are Influenza A (H3N2) and Influenza A (H1N1). Influenza B doesn’t have different subtypes, but it does have different strains.

The flu tends to slightly genetically change every so often — it can be as little as 6 months, or two years. So every year, when the vaccines are given, the virus will mutate, becoming unaffected by the vaccine. This makes the vaccine received this year ineffective next year. Therefore, to be effectively vaccinated against the flu, you must get a vaccine every year. That being said, a vaccine isn’t perfect. Pharmaceutical manufacturers cannot properly make the vaccinated 100% immune to the influenza, due to its constant changes. Every year can have different rates of success. Like last year, there was only a 30% success rate in the vaccines. This was due to the fact of different types of the flu was dominating. For several years before 2014, H1N1 was the dominating virus after the 2009 epidemic. But in 2014, H3N2 was more common, making the vaccine less effective that year. But that shouldn’t stop people from taking a trip to a local pharmacy to be vaccinated. Not purely for your health, but for your community’s too.

There are people with other health problems, such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or cancer, who are more susceptible to the flu virus itself. Pregnant women, children, and seniors over the age of 65 are also at a much higher risk than others. And while for most the flu is just a fever and chills, it can also cause much more severe symptoms resulting in hospitalization or death. Many of those deaths can be preventable. If everyone able to receive the vaccine receives it, we can create Herd Immunity. This means that there will be less of the flu to be spread since many people will be immune to the virus, making less of a chance of the flu to reach a higher risk person.

The flu can also affect the population on a global scale. The last flu pandemic was in 2009, when the H1N1, or swine flu, became a human influenza. Before 2009, H1N1 only affected pigs, or swine. No one expected this jump and so no human had ever been exposed to the type of virus. In the span of a year, between 200,000 to 500,000 people died. Now, the virus is a seasonal regular during flu season.

Also, just because you’re perfectly healthy and never get sick, doesn’t mean the flu can’t get you. Anyone can get the flu — sick, healthy, young, or middle-aged. It’s much better to be safe and vaccinated than sick and sorry.

So for the good of the you, and your community, take some time out of your day to get your vaccine. CVS, Walgreens, and HEB accepts walk-ins and most health care will provide for your shot or mist. For more information on the flu, go to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention’s page on Influenza.