Vaccinations Remain Our Best Defense Against Influenza
Going outside in 10-degree weather without a coat. Facing a 100-degree sun head-on without sun screen. Taking an infant on a 10-hour drive without backup diapers.
There are some scenarios where it just doesn’t make sense to go on without adequate protection. Add the wildly unpredictable 2016-17 United States flu season to the list.
As Dr. Tom Frieden of the Centers For Disease Protection points out, a flu shot remains Americans’ best, most reliable and proven defense against influenza’s sickly wrath. Fighting the sickliest time of the year without one is just, well, silly, Frieden says.
“Get a flu shot, no excuse not to get them,” Frieden said.
As the CDC notes, the more people who get vaccinated, the more people who will be protected from the flu, including the most vulnerable demographics: Older people, very young children and pregnant mothers-to-be.
For this year’s flu season, the CDC recommends people use only injectable flu shots: The inactived influenza vaccine or IIV and the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV). One option on the bench: The nasal spray flu vaccine, which the CDC advises should no longer be turned to as an influenza defense.
The CDC’s recommended vaccines for 2016-17 have been designed to contain:
- A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
- A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus and aBrisbane/60/2008-like virus (B/Victoria lineage
- An additional B virus called B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (B/Yamagata lineage).
The CDC recommends everyone six months and older get an annual flu vaccine by the end of February if possible. However, it is never too late to get vaccinated during the flu season.
Last season was a mild year for the flu, but Frieden cautions it’s too early in the game to know which flu strain will be dominant this winter. The CDC chief says the vaccinations produced for this season do “match the flu strains we’ve seen (active) so far, but it’s still too early to predict what the rest of the season will hold.”
For folks who do come down with the flu this season, as always, the usual precautionary methods are in play: Stay home from work or school to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Alas, statistics show an alarming amount of the American population are not turning to the flu vaccine to protect them against influenza. Nationally, the CDC reports only 46.5 percent of the USA’s population – about 144 million people – got vaccinated during the 2015 flu season. Frieden calls the decreased national use of vaccinations a “concerning” trend. Most concerning: Only 43 percent of people ages 50-64 – one of the age groups at highest risks for getting the flu – are getting vaccinated.
As Dr. Frieden points out: The odds aren’t in our favor for those who chose to battle influenza this winter without a built-in defense system.
“Getting a flu vaccine is important for all of us, for our own protection and for the protection of those around us who may be more vulnerable to flu, such as young children, people with certain chronic health conditions and the elderly,” Frieden said. “Flu can strike anyone and it can strike hard. I’m getting vaccinated and I ask that you join me.”
Frieden advises all Americans to follow their doctors’ lead during this flu season.
“If 9 out of 10 doctors are getting a flu vaccine, why aren’t you?” he reasoned.
As the saying goes, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. With the unpredictability of the flu, your safest bet is getting your annual flu shot.