During flu season, the flu vaccine can be as high as 70% effective. However, when the H3N2 virus is the dominant strain, vaccine effectiveness isn’t as strong, Vox reports. Throughout the 2017-2018 flu season, the H3N2 virus was the main strain, and vaccine effectiveness was only about 36%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the World Health Organization makes an educated prediction for the following year’s vaccine, its guess can fall short. Here are some reasons why the seasonal flu vaccine might miss the mark.
1. Vaccine development needs to improve
Vaccines are grown in chicken eggs, which is not the most efficient approach, NBC News reports. Growing the virus inside eggs is antiquated and slow, with plenty of room for error. Also, viruses grown in eggs are more likely to mutate, which makes it challenging to create a targeted vaccine.
Next: Too many strains to cover in one vaccine
2. It’s a challenge to pinpoint future strains
Although flu vaccines cover three to four strains, there are many strains circulating at one time, making it tough to nail down the right ones. Typical strains included in the vaccine are H1N1, H3N2 and B, according to NBC News. While the H3N2 strain was included in the vaccine this year, the virus tends to adapt to the eggs, making it difficult to formulate the right vaccine for the public.
Next: People blame the shot for getting the flu.
3. You can still catch other viruses that feel like the flu
In some cases, you get sick, but not with the flu. A sea of viruses look and feel like the flu, but only 38% of those who sought medical attention during the 2017-2018 flu season actually tested positive for the flu.
Next: The vaccine wasn’t totally ineffective.
4. Some vaccinated people get lucky
According to NBC News, the 2017-2018 vaccine protected 67% of those who got the H1N1 strain, which was also circulating. And the vaccine was 42% effective for those who fell ill with influenza B.
Next: You can’t get sick from the shot.
5. Misconceptions still swirl around the vaccine
Some folks believe once they are vaccinated they are covered for years to come or could develop Alzheimer’s disease from the vaccine, The Miami Herald reports. Both are misconceptions, as are pregnant women shouldn’t get vaccinated and the vaccine actually gives you flu. Although you might develop a low-grade fever and aches, symptoms dissipate quickly.
Next: Young adults aren’t getting the message.
6. Millennials don’t think they need the shot
Although the very young and old are at the highest risk for the flu, young adults shouldn’t skip the vaccine. However, many do and are more likely to spread the disease than others, according to Newsweek. Millennials typically don’t take many sick days and go to work sick.
Next: Needle-phobic people shy away from vaccine.
7. There might be good news for next year’s vaccine
For the needle-averse folks, the nasal flu vaccine will be back next flu season, according to Time. FluMist, which delivers a weakened version of the flu through the nose, should be ready by next flu season.
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