As the flu season reaches its peak, the controversy over the vaccines is one again brought to the spotlight. While the Federal Department of Health advises people to immunize themselves, others have different opinions on the matter.
The health department provides free vaccines to all people, including children over six months who are prone to high risks of the complications of influenza. Experts agree vaccines can come very useful for people who might be terribly affected by the flu, such as elder persons or the ones who suffer from lung and heart diseases or diabetes. However, they are not crucial for other healthy people.
According to Peter Collignon, microbiology and infectious diseases director at the Australian National University,
“Vaccines have saved more lives than doctors and while we have some very good vaccines, the influenza one is not one of our best.”
The professor has also voiced his concern about the long-term effects of vaccination each year. People are protected against strains in certain vaccines, but the susceptibility to new strains can be increased by repeated usage.
The National Immunisation Program has introduces a “quadrivalent” vaccine this year, which is supposed to protect people from for strains: two A and two B strains. The campaign will begin next month, and the vaccines will be supplied by two companies: GlaxoSmithKline for children and adults older than three, and Sanofi Pasteur for children aged from six months to three years.
While the method is expected to be more efficient than the previous three-strain vaccine, Collignon stressed upon the fact that influenza is quite tricky. Vaccines against it only reach an effectiveness of fifty percent. Furthermore, they can have significant long-term effects on healthy people.
Named the “original antigenic sin”, the effect refers to the fact that people may be immunized against older strains of the virus, but they become susceptible to a new one. The phenomenon has been previously demonstrated in Canada.
By protecting ourselves excessively against the flu, our immune system actually becomes less effective. Collignon has also emphasized that influenza is very similar to a very mild cold, and more people are hospitalized from the rhinovirus, the common cold virus, than the flu.
Because the flu vaccine formula changes regularly, scientists have a hard time conducting clinical trials. Furthermore, vaccine producers always end up one year behind when designing the next vaccine for the strains that appear.
Perhaps sometimes it is better to fight flu on our own rather than relying on help from other methods, especially since the symptoms do not pose great threats to healthy people.
Image Source: City of Hope
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