It’s flu shot season once again, so I thought it topical to share some little known yet surprising facts surrounding our most popular winter vaccine. If you’re still yet to arrange your shot, don’t let this put you off, the NHS recommends all vulnerable groups take this measure to protect themselves from influenza, and ultimately it could save your life.
The first documented outbreak of flu in Europe occurred in 1173, since then there have been pandemic outbreaks of the disease killing millions of people a couple of times each century. The flu vaccine was first developed in 1944 by Thomas Francis and Jonas Salk and has since been used in a variety of forms over the past 60 years. Although the vaccine undergoes constant development a combination of studies have found its effectiveness to be only around 67%.
Viruses are constantly developing, you’ll be shocked to know that viruses mutate more in one day than humans have in the last 8 million years. You also probably don’t know that this years vaccine is exactly the same as last years. This strikes me as odd, as new flu strains are constantly developing and many new varieties will be around this winter from last. Despite this the health service still recommends that everyone who had the vaccine last year gets inoculated again.
In the US in 2003 the government recommended for the first time that all children between 6 months and 5 years to receive the flu vaccine. However, rather than this leading to a decrease in infant deaths, on average there has been a 67% increase which has promoted outcries across the pond for further research and development of the vaccine.
Finally, surprisingly the flu vaccine is sourced from chickens, which can mean those of us who are allergic to them can also suffer from dangerous reactions from the vaccine itself. If you’ve got any concerns about this then you should speak to your GP.