Washington – Health officials are urging US citizens to get their flu vaccine, claiming this time will be more effective since last year’s shot provided little benefits. Currently, over 170 million doses are being produced, about 179 million doses are expected to be produced for the next season and 40 million have already been distributed to pharmacies and doctors.
“This is the beginning of the flu season. There’s plenty of flu vaccine out there. Get a flu shot to protect yourself, your family and your community,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at a news conference in Washington, DC.
According to Frieden, an analysis showed that last year’s flu vaccine was only 13% effective at protecting users against the top-circulating bug. Last year’s issue was that the vaccine mutated easily, and a new strain of H3N2 influenza appeared late in the season. It was already too late to introduce it in the vaccines distributed to the Northern Hemisphere. However, this year’s flu vaccine will include doses to protect against two A strains of flu, H1N1 and H3N2, and one B strain. Quadrivalent vaccines protect against an additional B strain.
This is all good news to the medicine community after a severe flu season, in which 18,000 patients have been hospitalized. Additionally, about 145 deaths of infants have been caused by the illness.
Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seattle pediatrician and blogger who spoke at the Washington DC news conference, called for pregnant women to get the shots to prevent the possibility of getting a severe disease and to protect their unborn child as well. Children younger than 5 are also more vulnerable to serious illness from the flu.
Less than half of Americans get an annual flu immunization, even though the CDC says on average, flu kills about 24,000 people annually in the US.