By Melanie Posey
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – It’s a question many want to know: Is this year’s flu vaccine really effective?
Doctors say it’s too early to know just yet.
“It’s the viruses that are circulating that will largely determine the effectiveness of the vaccines this year,” says Dr. Kevin Harrod, an endowed professor with UAB’s School of Medicine.
Harrod says vaccines are made eight to ten months ahead of time. Researchers rely on the viruses that circulated in the previous season to determine what vaccine should be made for the current one.
“Of course, there are often changes in the viruses, the viruses mutate and evolve and from that, the vaccines may or may not be effective,” Harrod says.
Last year’s H3N2 virus is an example.
Still, Harrod says, the vaccine always has some level of effectiveness in helping to build up your immune system against the flu.
“It’s also a reactivation. Your immune system will quiet down over time and you’re just reactivating a heightened immunity as the season approaches,” he says.
But when is the best time to get the vaccine? Experts say by October 31st. But why?
“Sometimes we can have an early flu season. We’ve seen the peak season occur in November or December. Quite frequently it’s in January through February time frame but being vaccinated in October or November will still offer you protection next winter and even next spring,” Harrod explains.
He points out that it’s not just about protecting yourself but also helping to create what’s called herd immunity that protects the entire population.