Influenza Vaccine Contributions by ColleenO

Article Revisions

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Flu vaccinations work by "training" the immune system to be resistant to specific strains of viruses that cause the flu. This process requires that the body's immune system respond to the vaccination. Some supplements may enhance your immune response to the vaccine, making it more effective at preventing the flu.

Asmall double-blind study found evidence that use of the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus fermentum improved the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine.158 The probiotic supplement was taken in two doses: one, two weeks before the vaccine, and the other, two weeks after.

Some seniors do not respond fully to the influenza vaccine. There is some evidence that vitamin E supplements may strengthen the immune response to vaccinations.74 Similarly, evidence from two double-blind trials,93,94 but not a third,102 suggests that combined multivitamin/multimineral supplements may improve their response. However, in another trial, a multivitamin tablet without minerals actually worsened participants' response to the vaccine.95 The reason for these discrepancies is unclear; however, concerns have been raised that one of the scientists who reported benefits in some of these trials engaged in questionable scientific practices.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 124 people, the supplement chlorella at a dose of 200 mg or 400 mg daily failed to enhance response to influenza vaccine.129 Another study failed to find benefit with a remedy from Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine, Hochu-ekki-to.136

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What Are the Risks Associated With the Influenza Vaccine?

Almost all people who receive the influenza vaccine have no problems. There are certain risks associated with the vaccine. As with any vaccine, there is a small risk of serious problems, including severe allergic reaction.

Adverse effects associated with the flu shot include:

  • Soreness, redness, and swelling around the injection site
  • Low-grade fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Adverse effects associated with the nasal spray vaccine include:
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Cough

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

Certain people should consult their doctor before receiving the influenza vaccine. These include:

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs
  • People who have had a severe reaction to a prior influenza vaccine
  • Children younger than six months
  • People who are sick with a fever
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