The 2019 Flu Vaccine: Updated and Important for All
With flu season right around the corner, experts are encouraging everyone—starting at 6 months of age—needs the newly improved vaccine.
While the flu vaccine has not offered much protection in the past two years, experts say this year’s new, fine-tuned vaccine will hopefully better counter the virus and its nasty strains.
While some people believe the flu vaccination actually gives you the flu, this is not the case, explains the CDC and many other experts. "Getting vaccinated is going to be the best way to prevent whatever happens," Dr. Daniel Jernigan, flu chief at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Associated Press.
Some years, new strains of the flu virus can be resistant to the vaccine. Last year, a new strain caused a wave of illness just as the first was winding down, making for one of the longest influenza seasons on record. The year before that saw a number of fatalities caused by the virus strain.
This, however, does not mean the vaccine is ineffective or not worthwhile. In fact, quite the opposite. People who get vaccinated and still get sick can expect a milder illness, and a lower risk of pneumonia, hospitalization, or death, explained Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
Flu season usually ramps up in November and December, so the CDC is urging people to get the vaccination before the end of October. So far, it does not look like the flu season is getting an early start.
Scientists are seeking for better flu vaccines, and the Trump administration last week urged a renewed effort to modernize production. The use of chicken eggs to grow the flu-virus is a 70-year technology, and experts are using it less and less. It takes too long to make new doses if a surprise strain pops up. New production techniques could boost effectiveness.
Here are some common questions answered about the flu vaccine thanks to an NBC article:
Who needs the vaccine?
The short answer? Everyone—except those younger than 6 months, according to the CDC.
Flu can affect people of all ages, but it is especially dangerous for people over age 65, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions like heart disease, asthma, or other lung disorders, even diabetes.
It can kill even otherwise healthy people, though. On average, the CDC reports the flu kills about 24,000 Americans each year.
How many get vaccinated?
Only about 45 percent of adults and 63 percent of children got vaccinated last year, according to the CDC. This is not enough, or close to the goal of 70 percent of the population.
Luckily, three-quarters of children under age 5 and two-thirds of seniors got the vaccine last year, and are doing better than the overall American population.
How bad will this year be?
It is very difficult to predict the effect of the flu each season. Strands mutate, and vaccines sometimes use their effectiveness and need to be updated and changed. This year’s vaccine has been updated to better match the nasty strain that made many fall severely ill: H3N2.
What are the flu vaccine options?
An expected 162 million to 169 million vaccine doses will be available this year, and people will have a couple different options. Most will offer protection against four flu strains.
Traditional flu shots are for all ages. For adults who are uneasy about needles, one brand uses a needle-free jet injector that pushes vaccine through the skin. The FluMust nasal spray is generally for healthy people ages 2 to 49.
There are two main brands for those 65 years and older whose weakned immune systems don’t always respond well to traditional shots. One is a high dose, and the other contains an extra-immune-boosting compound. Those two options protect against three flu strains, including the more typically severe ones.
Those who are allergic to eggs have two options as well: one brand grown in mammal cells instead and another made with genetic technology and insect cells.
How else can you protect against the flu?
Flu can be contracted with saliva, mucus, coughs, or sneezes. Wash your hands often. A few recent studies showed washing hands is better than hand sanitizers.
Ask about anti-flu treatments if you’re at risk of complications. If you are sick yourself, stay home to avoid spreading the virus.