Are flu vaccines worth the effort, year after year?

GLENN ELLIS | 2/29/2016, 12:27 p.m.
The flu (or common flu) is a viral infection that is spread from person to person in secretions of the ...
A man receives a flu vaccination shot. Public Health Image Library

The government and vaccine manufacturers are conducting clinical trials to determine whether the vaccine is effective and how large a dose is needed. Initial results from these “trials” are expected in early October. Some experts and advocates (myself included) have expressed concern that the vaccine may end up being administered to pregnant women and children before full test results are in. But government officials believe the new vaccine is safe because it resembles seasonal flu vaccines, which normally don’t undergo trials.

Here are some basic facts about how the flu vaccine works:

• It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to build protection in your body.

• The flu vaccine does not cause the flu.

• No vaccine protects 100 percent from disease. There is a chance you may become ill with the flu even after you get the vaccine.

• The vaccine does not protect against colds or other illnesses that have symptoms similar to influenza.

Although influenza is primarily spread by droplet transmission, the virus can also live on objects such as doorknobs, telephone receivers, utensils and food trays, beds and medical equipment for possibly up to one day. Some people infected with influenza may not develop symptoms at all, but may be infectious to others. For infected persons who do develop symptoms, they can be contagious the day before they get symptoms. So nurses can transmit the virus even before they realize they are infected. The period of greatest contagion is during the first three days of illness, and can last for five to seven days in otherwise healthy adults.


The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.