Written and medically reviewed by Dorcas Morak, Pharm.D
National Influenza Vaccination Week (N.I.V.W.) is observed December 6–12 this year as a period to educate the public on why to get a flu vaccine. There is still time this season for everyone over 6 months to get vaccinated. The flu season can run from fall through April but typically peaks in the winter. Flu is frequently trivialized as a minor health condition, but it can result in significant health issues like pneumonia or bacterial infections that might necessitate hospitalization or even result in death.
How can I get involved in National Influenza Vaccination Week?
Get involved and share information by:
- creating awareness on social media using the tag #FightFlu
- encouraging friends and family to get the flu vaccine
- volunteering to direct people to vaccination centers
- attending a webinar on flu vaccine promotion
Why is influenza vaccination important?
Benefits of influenza vaccination include:
- minimized risk of flu-associated hospitalization: the flu vaccine lessens the severity of flu infection and reduces the risk of hospitalization every year. It prevented about 105,000 hospitalizations between 2019 and 2020.
- prevention of respiratory infection in pregnant people: the flu vaccine protects pregnant women from contracting respiratory tract infections during and after pregnancy.
- reduced risk of illness and flu-related death: the flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor visits yearly. It prevented about 7.5 million flu illnesses, 3.7 million influenza-associated medical visits, and 6,300 flu-related deaths from 2019 to 2020.
- protection of children: the flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of severe influenza virus infection by 75% and significantly reduce children's flu-related death.
Flu and flu vaccine fast facts:
- Flu is a viral infection of the respiratory tract system caused by an influenza virus.
- It takes about two weeks for people with a good immune system to recover from the flu. Some people, however, may develop serious complications.
- Flu is highly contagious even if you are asymptomatic. Isolating yourself for approximately 5 – 7 days after you are diagnosed can prevent the spread.
- Flu can enter your body through the eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Influenza vaccines are safe; their common side effects are muscle pain, tiredness, and mild fever.
- Beware of the flu vaccine if you have an acute allergic reaction to it.
Are flu vaccines effective against all types of flu and cold viruses?
Flu vaccines only protect against infection and illness caused by the four most common flu viruses. The vaccine does not protect against non-flu viruses that can also cause flu-like symptoms. Examples of non-flu viruses are rhinovirus which causes the common cold and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
What are the examples of FDA-approved flu vaccines?
The flu vaccines with FDA approval for 2022-2023 are: Afluria Quadrivalent, Fluarix Quadrivalent, Fluad Quadrivalent, FluLaval Quadrivalent, Fluzone Quadrivalent, Flucelvax Quadrivalent, Flublok Quadrivalent, and FluMist Quadrivalent.
Are all flu vaccines the same?
No. The extent of protection by a flu vaccine may vary by flu virus type or subtype or by the vaccine. Though all flu vaccines are effective, they may vary in their levels of effectiveness.
Why is the flu vaccine typically less effective against influenza A(H3N2) viruses?
You may experience less effectiveness against influenza A (H3N2). This is because the flu virus used in the influenza A (H3N2) vaccine undergoes more frequent changes, resulting in a difference in the virus component of the vaccine and the circulating virus.
How long does the flu vaccine last?
Immunity provided by the flu vaccine lasts about 6 months. After 6 months, protection from flu vaccines starts to wane. This is due to a reduction in your level of antibodies and mutations of flu viruses. This is why it is recommended to get vaccinated yearly and very close to flu season.
If older people have weaker immune responses to the flu vaccine, should they still get vaccinated?
Yes. Though some older adults have weaker immune responses to flu vaccination, it still protects them from flu-related health complications, hospitalization, and even death when compared to unvaccinated adults.
How effective are flu vaccines in children?
Flu vaccines in children deliver a similar level of protection as seen in adults.