Flu shots usually take a number of months to produce since the formula for the vaccine is developed during the previous year’s flu season. There are three or four various strains of the influenza virus chosen to be included in the vaccine to provide as much protection to as many individuals as possible.
Researchers check on the strains of influenza circulating and how they have been mutating in order to determine the strains that are more likely to cause illness during the next flu season. Once the strains are selected, the manufacturers start to develop the vaccine. In reality, some manufacturers start to do this up to a month before the new formula is announced in order to the prepared and have enough time to produce sufficient amounts. Take note that the flu vaccine usually takes at least 6 months to create, thus the preparation is no small issue for the start of the flu season every year.
Changing nature of the flu virus
Several influenza viruses mutate constantly and this is one reason why yearly flu shots are vital. The virus can change in two different ways. A minimal change is called a “drift” while a major change is called as a “shift”. It is interesting to note that only the influenza viruses can mutate by shifts.
Why flu shots do not always work
Essentially every year, one or two of the viruses in the flu shots are updated to expect possible mutations. Nevertheless, in case a major shift occurs or the virus mutates to a different form than what was expected, the shot might not cover some of the circulating viruses. Remember that if there are circulating viruses not covered by the flu shot, an individual might still acquire the flu even after receiving a flu shot.
Luckily, the antibodies produced by the body to fight the viruses in the flu shot are able to provide a certain degree of resistance to the mutated versions of that virus.
If an individual was not able to receive a flu shot, there are measures that can provide protection against the flu. Since the virus is easily spread from one person to another via sneezing and exposure to the droplets, a vital step to prevent the illness is to regularly wash hands.
In most cases, an antiviral medication can help reduce the length and severity of the illness. This medication requires a prescription from a doctor though. If the individual has been exposed to someone with the flu, an antiviral medication can be prescribed to protect him/her from acquiring the virus.
- Vaccination every year is highly recommended.
- Wash hands regularly and cover the mouth when coughing.
- The doctor might prescribe antiviral medications since these can help protect the individual against the flu, minimize the severity of the symptoms or the duration of the illness.