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How’s That Flu Shot Working For You?

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Flu shot (credit: CBS)

Flu shot (credit: CBS)

Recent Blog Entries From Dr. Dave Hnida


Written by Dr. Dave Hnida, CBS4 Medical EditorYou can’t help missing the reports: there is flu everywhere in Colorado. And you really can’t avoid knowing about the flu if you or a loved one have gotten nailed with this nasty bug.

So, have you been immunized? If yes … good for you. If not, I’d track down a vaccine — it’s not too late. We’ve got another 6 to 8 weeks of flu to come.

How well does the vaccine work? Like anything, its not perfect. There’s no 100 percent protection from any vaccine. But it will lessen your risk of getting sick completely by about 70 percent if you get exposed. And for the other 30 percent, your illness will be shorter, milder and you’ll have a much lower chance of a complication like pneumonia or heart attack.

How well the flu shot works depends on two main things.

RELATED: Colorado Reports Widespread Flu In Nationwide Outbreak

The first is your immune system. The younger and healthier you are, the higher the odds the vaccine will “take.” The older you are, or if you have other health conditions, the less of an immune response you’ll have. But some is a heckuva lot better than none.

The other factor is how good the vaccine is. In other words, did researchers pick the right strains of flu to include in this year’s shot? The answer to that is … fair.

Generally there are three strains of protection in a vaccine: influenza A, influenza B, and H1N1. And this year the A matches up 99 percent, H1N1 is 100 percent, but the B is only 68 percent. So if you hear of someone getting true influenza despite a vaccine, its probably a weird B strain.

But even with its imperfections, think of this: with no shot your protection is in essence 0 percent. Sure, you’re healthy. Sure you’ve never gotten the flu before. But there’s no guarantee in life of anything.

My advice is to suck it up and get a vaccine. You’re not Superman … even if you think you are. (Just like someone I saw this week, who had to be carried in by relatives.) It simply ain’t worth it.

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