According to Jay Zimmerman, MD, the annual flu vaccine may offer protection regardless of which strains it contains, although this year’s vaccine appears to be a good match.
“There is some similarity between the strains and your body responds to the different parts of the virus differently,” Zimmermann said. “There’s some reactiveness from one strain to the other and your body still sees it as a flu virus.”
The flu vaccine is never 100 percent effective, even when the right strains have been predicted. Recipients can still get the flu, but the vaccine reduces the severity of symptoms.
“When it fails to prevent the flu, it would be much worse than if you didn’t have the vaccine,” he said.
When vaccinated the body generates antibodies to attack the flu. It generates the same antibodies when sick.
“If you’re exposed to that same virus [as the vaccine], then your body will respond a little more quickly and a little more vigorously, in which case you can fight the virus more effectively and get rid of it quicker,” Zimmermann explained.