Vaccination against the flu.
(photo credit: CLALIT HEALTH SERVICES)
Nearly two million doses of influenza vaccine have been purchased by the four public health funds, which will provide them free to everyone over the age of six months.
All the insurers will be ready for their nurses to vaccinate starting on Sunday. Most of the health funds already began giving the shots in the last week or so.
In addition, 17 pharmacists have been trained to vaccinate customers in private rooms in certain pharmacies (their addresses will be publicized on the Health Ministry’s website) around the country. The vaccination effort, organized for the first time, is intended solely for adults who have no fever, do not suffer from asthma, are not allergic to eggs and have not previously had a reaction to a flu shot.
The Maccabi and Meuhedet health funds have purchased a somewhat more expensive vaccine for their members that contains protection against four strains of flu, while Clalit and Leumit bought shots with three strains. The four-strain shot may be slightly more protective.
Flu vaccines, being made from a killed virus, are completely safe. They are never 100% effective due to the person’s age or medical condition, but even if one contracts the flu after getting the vaccination, the case will be significantly milder than in people who were not vaccinated this year. The vaccine must be administered every autumn, as the virus mutates each year.
The earlier one gets vaccinated the better, as it takes a few weeks until the protective antibodies are produced by the body.
The shot is especially recommended for the chronically ill, elderly, pregnant women, babies over half a year and children, and other people who do not want to be sick with fever and pain for a week and have to miss work. Schoolchildren in the second and third grades will also be vaccinated in class by school health service nurses.
Meanwhile, a just-published study at the University of Nottingham has found that being in a good mood on the day of your flu shot boosts its effectiveness.
Flu vaccination is estimated to be effective in up to 53% of older adults compared to 70% to 90% of younger people.
The English study was the first to examine several psychological and behavioral factors that have been shown to affect how well vaccinations work. The team measured negative mood, positive mood, physical activity, diet and sleep three times a week over a six-week period in a group of 138 older people due to have their flu jab. Then they examined how well the shot was working by measuring the amount of influenza antibody in the blood at four weeks and 16 weeks after the vaccination.
The results, published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity
, showed that of all of the factors measured, only positive mood over the six-week observational period predicted how well the jab worked, with good mood associated with higher levels of antibody. In fact, when the researchers looked at influences on the day of vaccination, they found an even greater effect on how well it worked, accounting for between 8% and 14% of the variability in antibody levels.
Prof. Kavita Vedhara explained: “Vaccinations are an incredibly effective way of reducing the likelihood of catching infectious diseases. But their Achilles’ heel is that their ability to protect against disease is affected by how well an individual’s immune system works. So people with less effective immune systems, such as the elderly, may find vaccines don’t work as well for them as they do in the young.”
The professor added: “We have known for many years that a number of psychological and behavioral factors such as stress, physical activity and diet influence how well the immune system works and these factors have also been shown to influence how well vaccines protect against disease.”