It is the time of year when we are gearing up for the cold months to kick in and with it come various dilemmas. Some people are not quite sure if they should retire their t-shirts for the season, others long for hibernation and some turn their thoughts to winter health and stack up on vitamins and prepare for the winter taking the flu vaccination, otherwise known as the flu jab.
While there may be several reasons why the jab is feared, be it its side effects or simple ‘needle phobia’, it has several benefits apart from the obvious ones. Whilst it is prioritised for more high risk groups who have a higher risk of mortality should they contract flu, it is also a benefit for our economy, preventing employees spreading flu at the speed of a Tweet and leading to a flu season slow down. But neither the health nor economic benefits stop there. The vaccine´s role in protecting against a heart attack has been recently identified. The jab firstly targets the respiratory-tract infections that lead to this type of complication and thus addresses the production of inflammatory proteins that would otherwise clog vessels already narrowed by heart disease. Secondly, it helps keep our seasonally packed hospitals clear of patients: 1 in 10 patients are admitted with a suspected or undiagnosed flu.
As viruses evolve, vaccines evolve with them. On the horizon, we could be able to forecast more accurately flu strains and the high risk groups of people prioritised to receive vaccination. In just a few years’ time we could be looking at receiving a one-off jab that confers both lifelong protection against the flu and it’s most aggressive and mutated forms. This could mean saving thousands of lives and the end of flu pandemics.
While we wait for the future of vaccination to unravel the question remains.. Will you take the flu jab this year?