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Flu vaccine:are there any risks?

Flu vaccine:are there any risks? The seasonal flu vaccination campaign has started. Despite this, many reservations still persist against this vaccine. Update on a highly controversial subject.

Many consider the flu to be a mild ailment, but that's not true. The flu should not be confused with flu-like symptoms (body aches, fever, fatigue, etc.) caused by moderately aggressive viruses.

The real flu is dreadful:9,900 flu-related deaths were recorded during the winter of 2018-2019 in France. It is therefore better to protect yourself effectively in the fall, before the epidemic does too much damage.

Seniors are not the only ones affected by the flu

The elderly are of course vulnerable, insofar as their organism is often more weakened. But those over 65 aren't the only ones who need to get vaccinated.

“All people with a chronic disease are also invited to do so:asthmatics, diabetics, kidney or respiratory failure, patients with severe obesity*, etc…”, assures Dr Geneviève Motyka, Deputy Medical Advisor National Health Insurance Fund.

Pregnant women are also at risk because their immune system is less valiant, as are infants under 6 months at risk (premature, immunocompromised, etc.). In this case, the vaccine is 100% covered by Social Security. But all other people can also get vaccinated to get through the winter safely and avoid spreading the virus to those around them.

This can be prescribed to anyone by a doctor or a midwife. People at risk generally receive a voucher from their health insurance fund directly by mail.

Variable effectiveness depending on the year

The vaccine never provides 100% protection. Its composition is modified every year because the Influenza viruses responsible for the flu circulate as they please to the four corners of the planet and evolve regularly. It is therefore necessary to anticipate several months in advance.

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"Based on the data provided by the global influenza surveillance networks, the WHO determines the strains that are at risk of proliferating the following winter", explains Professor Bruno Lina, professor of virology at the University of Lyon 1 and responsible for the National Reference Center on Influenza. It happens that one of the viruses mutates in the meantime by bad luck, but it is rare for this to happen for the three strains included in the vaccine.

"The effectiveness of vaccination thus varies from one year to another and according to the categories of people, adds Professor Lina.

The flu vaccines available in France are "inactivated" (they do not contain live infectious agents, but a fragment of the infectious agent or an infectious agent rendered harmless). The 2019-2020 influenza vaccine contains two new strains an A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1) pdm09-like strain and an A/Kansas/14/2017(H3N2)-like strain. The other strains are unchanged:a strain similar to B/Colorado/06/2017 (Victoria); a strain similar to B/Phuket/3073/2013 (Yamagata). The B strain selected for the trivalent vaccine is a strain similar to B/Colorado/06/2017 (Victoria) (unchanged).

Vaccines and side effects

Inflammation at the injection site and a mild fever may occur after vaccination. So nothing serious. But mistrust of vaccines is such that 50% of people at risk refuse to be vaccinated.

“This fear is unjustified, believes Dr. Jacques Gaillat, infectious disease specialist at the Annecy-Genevois Hospital Center. It comes from the controversies raised by vaccines against hepatitis B and against papillomaviruses, but no study has proven that these could autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis. There are also doubts about the safety of aluminum adjuvants in some vaccines. But the one sold in France against the flu does not contain it.

On the other hand, since it is produced from egg protein, people with an egg allergy should seek the advice of their allergist before having the vaccine injected.

Where to get vaccinated?

You can get vaccinated in a doctor's office by a doctor, a midwife, a nurse or, new, by a pharmacist directly in the pharmacy. The system, which had been tested for two years in four regions (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, New Aquitaine, Hauts-de-France, Occitanie) has been generalized to all of France since October 15, 2019. Note:only adults and/or people said to be at risk (people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, obese people or people with chronic pathologies, those around infants under 6 months at risk and immunocompromised people) can claim it. Finally, not all pharmacies offer this procedure. They must imperatively register with their Regional Health Agency (ARS) and their pharmacists must pass specific training.

*BMI greater than or equal to 40.

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