Flu Season Is Here
Flu Shot Season Is Here
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It seems odd to be thinking of influenza (flu) season in mid-August, but state and local health departments have been doing just that. This year’s flu vaccine is already available in good quantity; influenza virus mutates quickly, so vaccines must be updated and changed annually.
The influenza viruses selected for inclusion in the seasonal flu vaccines are updated each year based on information about which flu viruses are being found, how they are spreading, and how well the previous season’s vaccine viruses might protect against any that are being newly identified.
The seasonal flu vaccine is a trivalent vaccine with each component selected to protect against one of the three main groups of circulating flu viruses. Three vaccine viruses are chosen to maximize the likelihood that the flu vaccine will protect against the viruses most likely to spread and cause illness among people during the upcoming flu season. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determines what viruses will be used in U.S.-licensed vaccines.
FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) met in Bethesda, Maryland, on February 25, 2011, to select the flu viruses for the composition of the vaccine for the 2011-2012 U.S. flu season. The committee recommended the 2011-2012 vaccines to be used contain the following virus strains:
- A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus [pandemic (H1N1) 2009 flu virus]
- A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus
- B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus
This year’s vaccine for the United States includes the same viruses that were used for the 2010-2011 flu season and the vaccine composition is identical to that recommended by the World Health Organization on February 17, 2011, for the Northern Hemisphere’s 2011-2012 flu season.
Every year in the United States, on average, 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu—including approximately 4 million children; they also estimate that anywhere from 3000 to 49,000 people die of flu and flu-related illnesses each year. The CDC estimates that $1.7 billion is spent on medical costs for children with the flu and an additional $2.1 billion is spent in indirect costs like missing work to care for sick children.
The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses and provides the following guidelines:
- Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine as soon as the 2011-2012 vaccines are available
- Children aged 6 months through 8 years require two doses of influenza vaccine (administered a minimum of four weeks apart) during their first season of vaccination to optimize immune response
- Vaccination of high-risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness. People at high risk include
-Children younger than 5, but especially younger than 2 years old
-People with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease
-People 65 years and older
- Vaccination also is important for people who live with or care for those people at high risk; this includes healthcare workers and home caregivers
- Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for them should be vaccinated instead.
Jill Shuman, MS, ELS
Published on August 23, 2011
Sources: Grohskopf L, Uyeki T, Bresee J, et al. Prevention and control of ininfluenzaenza with vaccines: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2011. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2011;60;1-6.
Key facts about influenza (flu) & flu vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm. Updated July 14, 2011. Accessed August 22, 2011.