Should you get Vaccinated for Swine Flu this season?
A lot of people, especially doctors often get vaccinated every year against Swine Flu. This is what WHO has to say (Recommended compositions of influenza vaccine for use in the 2017-2018, meeting held in March 2017)
Q.1 Should daily reports of H1N1 in papers worry us?
A.1 No. In 2009, it was a sudden genomic change, which lead to significant morbidity as well as mortality. Over the period, it has become the endemic stain and most people have developed good amount of resistance to it.
Every year, around 20% of all virus infections in children and adults are because of influenza (H1N1 is just a strain of influenza). Last year from September 2016 to February 2017, three important strains circulated were H1N1, H3N2 and B. Out of them, H1N1 was less than 1/4th of total influenza; and H3H2 was predominant one. So, in terms of numbers H3N2 was causing more illness than H1N1. Although we need to be vigilant, we need to be more cautious with words 'Swine Flu'. Most cases encountered are of flu and not Swine Flu
Q.2 Should regular annual vaccination be taken against Influenza?
A.2 May not be a priority for the whole population for India. But yes, for health professionals, those with high risk conditions and at extremes of age (6 months - 2 years and > 65 years). Recent research says that most of bacterial respiratory infections start with virus infections; if we can prevent viral infections, we can prevent most of respiratory bacterial infections as well. So preventing viral infections is a good strategy; but preventing RSV (once vaccine available), will be more important than preventing influenza.
We may not promote the use of this vaccine for everybody in general public, but if anybody willing to take annual influenza vaccine, there is no reason for us to refuse that.
Q.3 What is the best time for taking annual Flu shot?
A.3 Influenza virus constantly evolves (sudden change or gradual change), all the time, in a year. Twice in a year, new vaccine becomes available in the market, based on currently circulating virus strains – March-April (for southern hemisphere) and Sep-Oct(for northern hemisphere). These vaccine stains are decided based on WHO meeting held six months before this, ie. In March and September. So the currently available vaccine, (July 17) is the one which is suitable for southern hemisphere, where the peak season is July-Aug. (Peak season for Northern hemisphere is Jan-Feb.
India is a vast country, having different seasons. In northern India, where we have prominent cold season like Delhi and Chandigarh, maximum number of influenza cases occur in winters and few during rains. In Southern India, where no such cold season, have maximum number of cases during rainy season. Although there is no consensus, when to take annual vaccination, but the best time for north is possible in November; and for South is possibly before rains (irrespective of vaccine available and stains prevalent)...
Modified slightly from a forward