There are various factors involved with the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. These include the age and health status of the person vaccinated, and the match between the vaccine and the different strains of influenza viruses in the community. Even though the vaccine may not be closely matched to the strains in the community, it can still provide some protection and prevent flu-related complications.
Because flu shots protect against the most common strains of the flu, receiving a flu shot reduces your likelihood of contracting the flu virus even though it doesn’t guarantee you won’t get the flu. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine, and the vaccine is particularly important for people who are at high risk of developing complications from the flu. These people include:
- Children younger than 5 years old, especially younger than 2 years old
- Adults who are 65 years old or older
- Pregnant women
- Residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities
- People with various medical conditions, such as asthma, neurological disorders, chronic lung disease, heart disease, kidney or liver disorders, and others
In addition, getting a flu shot helps protect your community at large. It adds to what is called community immunity, or “herd immunity,” which means the more people in a population who are vaccinated or immune to a specific disease, the less likely it will be that anyone in that community contracts the disease. This cuts down on flu outbreaks and helps protect people who may not be able to get a flu vaccine for medical reasons, as well as infants who are not recommended to receive the vaccine. Additional information can be obtained from on the CDC website.