Why you should make the effort to get the COVID bivalent and flu vaccines

Do your part. Get vaccinated. Have you seen that type of billboard in the past two years? 

Vaccines are a hotly debated topic in today’s world. For some, they raise suspicion as they view vaccines as a scapegoat for government control. Others simply believe that it is more natural for our bodies to fight off illness without any intervention. However, this is completely false. There is no chip that the government uses to monitor us, nor is it necessary to cause your body to go through unnecessary harm to be “organic.” These individuals are characterized as anti-vaxxers. They constitute about 7% of the US population. But fortunately, 60% agree that vaccines are more of saviors rather than hindrances. 

Before we talk about two of the most in demand vaccines today, namely the COVID-19 bivalent and the influenza shot, let’s briefly dive into vaccine mechanisms. Whenever a pathogen enters the system, the body’s natural response is to activate the immune system. The white blood cells try to ward off the harmful invaders until the final immune response agents arrive: antibodies. These structures are generated by the immune system when it recognizes the enemy cell’s antigen, a subpart of a pathogen. So, technically the body could ward off almost any disease. But there’s a caveat: it takes time. That’s where vaccinations come in. They shorten that lag time. 

Vaccines are composed of a specific disease’s antigen, but it is inactive. This results in its incapability of causing any disease related symptoms while still promoting the same immune response as it would the active form. Some vaccines, however, are more advanced and contain the blueprint to create the antibodies without the actual antigen. So, in layman’s terms, your body is getting introduced to this new disease without having any of its symptoms. A cheat code, right?

You might be asking yourself, is there a memory system involved with this process? How does the body recognize that same antigen when it encounters it again? The answer is yes. There is a memory system. There are memory cells and long lived antibodies that promptly subdue the pathogen whenever it is introduced into the system again. Also, if you were ever wondering why you have to get different doses over time, that’s to strengthen these memory cells’ formation and antibody half-life. 

With regards to questions about the COVID and flu vaccines, let’s start with the COVID bivalent shot–perhaps the most demanded vaccine right now since waves of COVID-19 epidemics still hit us today. So first, why a bivalent now? Why are we getting so many vaccine doses–2, 3 and even 4? Well, viruses mutate over time, introducing new variants into our populations. COVID-19 is no exception. There are multiple variants and sub-variants right now, and the best chance we have of fighting them is getting immunized for the deleterious ones. Currently, according to the CDC, the omicron variant is the most potent and dangerous. The bivalent shot, however, protects against it. It contains both a broad virus antigen plus a specific omicron variant antigen. Hence, the name bivalent.

The annual influenza virus is making its rounds as well. Like COVID-19, it also has a high mutation rate–explaining the need for an annual shot. Consequently, researchers took it a step further and introduced a quadrivalent vaccine, containing predictions for what four forms the flu is likely to take. So, think about it like this. There are quadruple the amount of immunity coming with this one shot.

Now, what are you waiting for? You have all the information you need. Schedule your vaccines as soon as possible. There’s no point in waiting. Don’t do your body a disservice any longer. Furthermore, SLU helps make vaccines super accessible to students. SLU runs vaccine clinics for anyone to get vaccinated. All you have to do is search “vaccines at SLU” and there are links to sign up for both the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot. It just takes 5 minutes to schedule. There’s no reason for you not to get a boosted immune system for free.