The usual flu has become a very mild subject ever since medicine specialists created vaccines for it. But cold weather and flu seem to have become more of a nuisance this year, having increased the number of deaths during winter by up to 30%. Officials hide behind the vaccine, stating that is remains, until further notice, the best anti-flu measure that we have. But is that really the case?
Paul Cosford, the PHE director for protection and a medical director, has given us insight as to how the flu vaccine evolved during the years. Professor Cosford stated that the flu vaccine has witnessed an impressive increase in the last years: an approximate of 50% effectiveness. However, in the last year, flu vaccine effectiveness has gone down, a phenomenon that is raising questions among experts.
If we embrace the theory of evolution, we might easily come to the conclusion that the flu virus can evolve. It would make perfect sense given the circumstances. The vaccines have been working fine for years and, all of a sudden, they are not as good as they once were. So the virus might be evolving, learning how to deal with the constraints that we have put onto it.
At the same time, we know that cold weather and human activity are also two factors that need to be considered. The way climate works is that extremely high temperatures in the summer demand extremely low temperatures in winter. So certain parts of the world might be forced to cope with lower temperatures than usual, rendering people vulnerable to the flu virus.
At the same time, there are working schedules or simple circumstances that make people’s immune systems somewhat weaker. Night shifts, for example, or exposure to stress for a very long period of time can influence the human body in negative ways and an affected immune system is never something to be trifled with.
Specialists agree that the flu vaccine is the best countermeasure we have at the moment, but a simple vaccine might prove to be insufficient one day and we will need something more effective. Professor Cosford declared that “it is not possible to fully predict the strains that will circulate in any given season” but that “flu vaccination remains the best protection we have”.
There is hope, however. Earlier in August, a one-time flu shot was announced to be under investigation. The shot requires more testing, but it might be the best chance we can look forward to in the next years. So even if the situation seems negative at the moment, we just need to wait a little more.
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