Filed Under:

Can You Get A Flu Shot And Still Get The Flu?

Play associated audio

This year's flu season started about a month early, prompting federal health officials to warn it could be one of the worst in years. They're urging everyone to get their flu shots.

But like every flu season, there are lots of reports of people complaining that they got their shot but still got the flu. What's up with that?

Well, as Michael Jhung of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains, there are lots of possible reasons.

The first is that while the flu vaccine is the best way to protect against the flu, it's far from perfect. In fact, the vaccine is only about 60 percent effective. So some people can get the flu even though they were vaccinated because the shot just didn't work for them.

The vaccine, for example, tends to work less well in the elderly. That's a big problem, since the elderly are among those at greatest risk for serious complications from the flu.

Another reason is that it takes about two weeks for the vaccine's protection to kick in. So if someone gets exposed to the flu in that time between when he gets the vaccine and when his immune system has responded sufficiently, he could still get sick.

Also, it's always possible that someone could get exposed to a strain of the flu virus that's not covered by the vaccine. This year's vaccine, though, looks like it should work pretty well — the flu virus strains in the vaccine appear to be a very good match for the most common flu strains that are circulating this year.

The last reason is that someone might get exposed to another kind of virus that causes symptoms that are very similar to the flu. There are lots of other viruses out there that can cause respiratory illnesses, such as adenoviruses, parainfluenza viruses and respiratory syncytial virus.

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

What The African American History Museum Means to D.C.'s Black Community

This weekend, D.C. celebrated the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Kojo chats with the civil rights leader and longtime city council member who chaired the D.C. host committee.

NPR

They Dreamed Of Sheep (Farming): Peek Inside An Alabama Dairy

Greg Kelly wanted out of corporate America for a lifestyle better suited to raising a family. So he and his wife launched Alabama's only sheep dairy. "We feel like we're really living now," she says.
WAMU 88.5

Protecting Our Data In An Era Of Increasing State-Sponsored Cyberattacks

Yahoo says information from 500 million users was stolen by hackers. This comes amid growing concern over intrusions into U.S. election systems. In an era of increasing state-sponsored cyber threats, protecting our personal data and the integrity of U.S. voting.

WAMU 88.5

Putting The Patient At The Center Of Local Healthcare

From "concierge" services to iPads connecting new parents with their babies in the nursery, Kojo explores some of the patient-centered ideas coming from healthcare innovation labs at local hospitals.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.