Why the Flu Shot is the Safest, Most Effective Way to Protect Yourself and Your Family

When it comes to cold and flu season, flu shots are essential. On average, flu vaccines help reduce the flu by 40%-60% according to reports from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even if they don’t prevent infection by a specific strain of flu, they can help reduce symptoms. But many people still question how the CDC chooses strains of flu for vaccines annually and why flu strains change so much over time.

For questions and concerns about the flu and other seasonal illnesses, residents of Bakersfield, California, can depend on the experience and quality care of Dr. Yadwinder Kang and 1st Choice Urgent Care.

How are strains of flu selected?

As flu viruses change all the time during the year, finding the right viruses is key to treating people in the flu season. Every year, the CDC gathers information to determine which viruses are circulating. The CDC's Influenza Division checks for flu virus activity weekly and focuses its vaccine research on those viruses. They then compare current viruses to current vaccines to determine any similarities that may expedite the production of the next vaccine. Similar properties between viruses expected for the flu season and current vaccines will make developing a vaccine much easier.  

One method of determining a flu vaccine’s response against viruses is called antigenic characterization. Antigens, chemicals found on the surface of viruses, trigger your immune system to produce antibodies. Other methods are also used to help gather data such as genetic characterization. This method examines the genome of a virus to better understand how viruses evolve.

How do strains of flu get missed?

Generally, vaccine viruses are grown in chicken eggs or cells and have to be tested in enough time for widespread production (generally by private companies). The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) make recommendations before production starts. As soon as they present their recommendation regarding a vaccine for the upcoming season, manufacturers start producing. The sooner the recommendation, the larger the amount of vaccine doses can be made.

However, this means that if their testing isn’t done in time, or if not enough of a vaccine is made before flu season, they may miss some flu viruses. In fact, some flu viruses show up too late in the season, making it impossible to manufacture a vaccine against them.

How long does it take to make?

Once the researchers issue a recommendation, companies start large production. To produce enough vaccines for widespread treatment, manufacturers need at least six months. In order to have enough for the fall, some companies start producing as early as January based on the available information at the time. As a result, these companies can make flu vaccines that cover 3-4 different viruses to protect people in the fall season.

Countless hours of research goes into making sure you receive a vaccine that will protect you and your family against the flu, so make sure you get yours this season. Make an appointment with Dr. Kang and 1st Choice Urgent Care today for help with options for flu vaccines.

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