Influenza – it’s getting worse

by Jocelyn Pollak

If you’ve ever had the flu, you probably remember a week of chills, headache, exhaustion and fever. If you’ve had complications from the flu, you may have been downright scared. Luckily, the flu vaccine is widely available in the Kingdom. Several years ago, the world’s first  4 strain influenza vaccine, or as it’s more colloquially known, the flu shot was launched. The old flu vaccine contains 3 strains and had been around for 30+ years. But because every year there are actually 4 strains most commonly circulating about the globe, experts have to make their best prediction on which sub-type of the flu strains should be in the vaccine (since you can only include 3 strains!).

However, they can be and have been wrong and the strains included in the vaccine could be mismatched to the ones circulating in real life. From a scientific standpoint, the flu vaccine is actually more complicated to produce than you’d think. For businesses, it’s also complicated because companies have to make new ones every year – one for northern hemisphere, and the other for southern – renew licenses for the new vaccines and invest and produce a great deal up front at the risk that the experts might actually chose the wrong strain to be included. Poor planning can result in flu shot shortages and other issues. The new flu vaccine reduces these problems because it reduces, but doesn’t eliminate, the mismatch risk.

get the flu vaccine

Dr Supattra Rungmaitree, an infectious disease specialist, recommends that everyone (who is able) should get the flu vaccine. As many people know, it’s possible to get a flu shot and still get the flu but that’s not a reason to skip it. First of all, it takes about 2 weeks for your body to develop an immune response, it’s not instant, so it’s possible to get the flu in that two-week window even if you’ve gotten the shot. Secondly, if you get the flu shot but still get the flu, the effect of having the vaccine can dramatically decrease the severity of your symptoms in comparison to not having gotten the vaccine at all. Thirdly, from a public health perspective, getting your flu shot does help protect others who are unable to get the vaccine themselves, like young babies, or sick people such as cancer patients. In the young, old and unhealthy, complications resulting from the flu, such as pneumonia, can be fatal.

Dr Rungmaitree explained that flu season peaks in Thailand during the upcoming rainy season (July-September). So if you want to avoid the discomfort and complications from this year’s flu, head to your medical provider and get your shot.

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