Last year’s flu vaccine wasn’t as effective as previous vaccines, but this year’s vaccine should be a much better match according to Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Typically, the vaccine is 50 to 60 percent effective, making your chances of getting the flu reduced by as much as 60 percent if you get a flu shot.
This year’s flu vaccine contains the H3N2 strain, Frieden said. Last year's vaccine was only 13 percent effective against the H3N2 strain. As a result, "more seniors were hospitalized for the flu than ever before."
What's more, 145 children died from the flu, Frieden said, adding that the actual number was "probably much higher since many flu deaths aren't reported."
About 50 percent of the American population gets vaccinated every flu season. That includes pregnant women. More people, including pregnant women, need to be vaccinated, Frieden said.
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get the flu shot every year.
Frieden said there's an adequate supply of flu vaccine this year. Companies are expected to make 170 million doses of vaccine, of which 40 million have already been distributed, he said.
People at risk of flu-related complications include young children, especially those younger than 2 years; people over 65; pregnant women; and people with chronic health problems, such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes, as well as those with weakened immune systems, according to the CDC.
Most seasonal flu activity typically occurs between October and May. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February.
Children younger than 6 months are at higher risk of serious flu complications, but are too young to get a flu vaccine. Because of this, safeguarding them from flu is especially important. If you live with or care for an infant younger than 6 months of age you should get a flu vaccine to help protect them from flu.
It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.
The CDC encourages people to get a flu shot preferably by October. Those children aged 6 months through 8 years who need two doses of vaccine should receive the first dose as soon as possible to allow time to get the second dose before the start of flu season. The two doses should be given at least four weeks apart.
During this flu season:
• Intramuscular (IM) vaccines will be available in both trivalent and quadrivalent formulations. (High dose vaccines, which are IM vaccines, will all be trivalent this season.)
• For people who are 18 through 64 years old, a jet injector can be used for delivery of one particular trivalent flu vaccine.
• Nasal spray vaccines will all be quadrivalent this season.
• Intradermal vaccine will all be quadrivalent.
The quadrivalent flu vaccine is designed to protect against four different flu viruses; two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.
It’s hard to believe that we’re about to head into the flu season, particularly with so many states still experiencing summer like weather. But we are, and getting a flu shot early can help protect you and your family from a virus no one wants to get.
Sources: Steven Reinberg, http://consumer.healthday.com/infectious-disease-information-21/flu-news-314/no-embargo-this-year-s-flu-vaccine-better-match-703392.html