Thursday, March 27, 2014

Home Front: Influenza vaccination

It is the onset of the Flu Season here, and a fringe benefit of working in Medical Science IT is that I am eligible for free vaccination, as I have been for the last 15 years. I have gotten my flu-vaccination, as well as every other vaccination that had been offered to me, since birth, and considering some of the places I've lived, I'm rather grateful that I have done so.

I actually fell ill with the Swine Flu in 2009, despite vaccination, (more on this later). The key for me is to be as best prepared for a possible widespread, possibly devastating pandemic .

There has been a lot of controversy about vaccination, and perhaps this might go some way to indicate some of the technical advantages and aspects of this vaccination (and others).
My FluVax was the GlaxoSmithKline 0.5mL dose of FLUARIX containing 15ug of each of the three types of influenza virus fragments. •A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus, •A/Texas/50/2012(H3N2)-like virus, •B/Massachusetts/02/2012-like virus. The H3N2 is a virus antigenically like the cell-propagated prototype virus A/Victoria/361/2011.

Each year the vaccines are designed to meet the predicted strains of interest,  and they work by causing the body to produce its own antibodies against those types of influenza virus, but not against other strains or other flu-like infections.

Protection from these three strains is reported to occur within 2 to 3 weeks of vaccination, and is expected to last for 6-12 months. This protection has been found to be 65-100% effective.

This kind of vaccination is generally injected into the upper arm muscle and is produced in chicken eggs, which the virus has been concentrated and purified by clarification, adsorption and centrifugation.

The purified whole virus is then treated with the detergent sodium deoxycholate and again centrifuged, and the resulting antigen suspension is inactivated with formaldehyde.

As with all medication, there are potential side-effects, and the vaccination process can even illicit illness symptoms, as the body fights off an apparent (but inactive) infection. However, given the debilitating severity of influenza, even with low case fatality rate strains, I think that part of my preparation regime is to be as well vaccinated as I can be and it's well worth those risks. What you can't see CAN kill you ....

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