The influenza virus is sneaky and versatile. It constantly changes, so a new vaccine needs to be developed annually to properly target the virus. It has saved the lives of countless numbers of people all over the world. The few remaining skeptics about the vaccine live in their own bubble of misinformation, where facts, truth and reality are unwelcome. The saliva-dripping purveyors of this deadly misinformation know all the devious tricks to deceive people into believing outright lies. Critical thinking is not taught in elementary and high schools, so the con artists are actually able to dupe some. Below is a good summary and overview from factcheck.org, with comprehensive info under Further Reading.
"Flu shots were first developed with help from the U.S. Army in the early 1940s and were approved for use in 1945. Those early shots were effective against only a couple of strains of the influenza virus, though. There are four types of influenza — called A, B, C and D — and the two that are mostly likely to affect humans, A and B, can be broken down into more specific subtypes and lineages.
"In order to monitor which of those strains were most prevalent at a given time, the WHO started the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System in 1952. The GISRS continues that work today in 127 countries, making it easier to target specific strains each year.
"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration explains on its website:
“'There is often more than one type of influenza virus circulating each season. So, vaccines are formulated to target four of the most likely influenza viruses to circulate and cause illness in the U.S. during the upcoming influenza season: two influenza A types (H1N1 and H3N2) and two types of influenza B. These are known as quadrivalent vaccines. Influenza B more commonly affects children and also causes more complications and death in children than adults.'
"So, flu vaccines have improved since they were first introduced, and the number of people getting them has increased over time. According to CDC data, the number of doses administered in the U.S. has risen markedly over the last four decades. In the 1980-1981 flu season, the earliest for which there is data, 12.4 million people were vaccinated. In the 2020-2021 flu season, which was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a record high 194.4 million people were vaccinated. That high dropped slightly in the following two flu seasons, to 175.6 million in 2021-2022 and 173.4 million in 2022-2023.
"Since the 2010-2011 flu season, the CDC estimates that vaccination has prevented nearly 5,500 deaths each season on average, as we’ve explained before, excluding the 2020-2021 flu season since measures adopted to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 led to far fewer cases of the flu.
"So, the flu vaccine clearly works. However, (skeptics) suggest that flu vaccines aren’t effective because they haven’t eradicated influenza after nearly 80 years and there’s still a need for annual vaccinations. But that reasoning is flawed for a couple of reasons.
"First, not all vaccines are the same. Some require only a primary series to be effective for life (such as the hepatitis B vaccine) and others require new dosages regularly (such as the flu vaccine). This is because the viruses they’re designed to address behave differently.
"Long-lasting vaccines typically target viruses that replicate uniformly, Dr. Linda Yancey, an infectious disease expert at the Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, explained in a post for the hospital.
“'They replicate very faithfully, so if you have hepatitis B, every hepatitis B virus in your body looks identical,' she said. 'The same with measles. They are very good at replicating themselves without error, and that is a huge benefit for us, because it means that once you get antibodies against one hepatitis B or measles virus, you have immunity against every hepatitis B or measles virus you are ever going to encounter.'
"By contrast, the influenza virus shifts frequently. 'The reason we have to get the flu shot every year is that the influenza virus is able to shuffle its chromosomes around in a way that most viruses cannot,” Yancey said.
“'This actually happens on a very regular basis, and that’s why, every year, we have to come up with a new flu vaccine depending on the strains currently circulating,' she said.
"Scientists are working to develop a universal vaccine for the flu, which would be effective against a broad spectrum of strains, Dr. Anthony Komaroff, a professor at Harvard Medical School, explained in an April post. It would work by targeting a common element shared by most flu strains that’s buried deeper in the structure of the cell instead of targeting structures on the outer layer, as is the case now.
"The same thing that necessitates a different formulation for the vaccine each year — the wide variety of strains and their ability to quickly mutate — is also the reason that influenza hasn’t been eradicated......"
"And as the CDC has explained, 'At least two factors play an important role in determining the likelihood that vaccination will protect a person from flu illness: 1) characteristics of the person being vaccinated (such as their age and health), and 2) how well the vaccines ‘match’ the flu viruses spreading in the community. When flu vaccines are not well matched to some viruses spreading in the community, vaccination may provide little or no protection against illness caused by those viruses.'”
Flu Shots, MMR Vaccines Have Saved Millions of Lives, Contrary to Online Claim https://www.factcheck.org/2023/09/scicheck-flu-shots-mmr-vaccines-have-saved-millions-of-lives-contrary-to-online-claim
History of the Influenza Vaccine https://www.who.int/news-room/spotlight/history-of-vaccination/history-of-influenza-vaccination
Historical Reference of Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Doses Distributed https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-supply-historical.htm
Past Seasons Estimated Influenza Disease Burden Averted by Vaccination https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/past-burden-averted-est.html
Vaccine Effectiveness: How Well Do Flu Vaccines Work? https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/vaccineeffect.htm
Flu Vaccine Ingredients Are Safe, Contrary to a Misleading Meme https://www.factcheck.org/2023/10/scicheck-flu-vaccine-ingredients-are-safe-contrary-to-a-misleading-meme/
Here’s why you need to get a flu shot, even if you don’t want one
----Myth #1: Getting a flu shot will give you the flu.
----Myth #2: At any one time, there are so many different strains of the flu around. A flu shot can’t protect you against all of them — so why bother?
----Myth #3: The flu shot isn’t needed if a person is young and healthy — it’s intended only for the old and/or sick.
----Myth #4: People in the high-risk groups mentioned above should not get flu shots.
FDA's Critical Role in Ensuring Supply of Influenza Vaccine
----Influenza Vaccines and How They Are Made
----Making the Flu Vaccine: A Year-Round Effort
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