I know, I know…. It’s hard to even think about the flu season when it’s hot enough outside to bake a potato on the sidewalk. But, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is already preparing for the 2011-2012 flu season.
The FDA has approved the vaccine formulation for the upcoming season. Six manufacturers have been chosen to produce and distribute the vaccines in the U.S.
“Vaccines to prevent seasonal influenza have a long and successful track record of safety and effectiveness in the United States,” Dr. Karen Midthun, director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in an agency news release.
The approved vaccines are designed to protect against 3 virus strains that scientists think will be the most prevalent in the upcoming flu season. It also includes the vaccine for the 2010-2011virus strains.
The 2011-2012 strains vaccine will be for:
- A/California/7/09 (H1N1)-like virus (pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza virus,
- A/Perth /16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus,
- B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus
You might be thinking, “I had a flu shot last year. If the vaccine is going to be the same , why do I need to get another?” The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that it’s best to have an annual vaccine even if it’s the same formulation you received last year in order to get “optimal protection,” specifying that a decline in protection from the previous year’s immunization “has the potential to leave some people more vulnerable to infection, illness and possibly serious complications from the same influenza viruses a year after being vaccinated.”
This group of vulnerable individuals includes elderly people and those with chronic health conditions that weaken their immune system.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, defines elderly as someone past middle age and approaching old age. Researchers at the Pew Research Center say when “old age” begins changes- depending on what age group you ask. Adults under 30 will generally say old age begins at 60, while people currently between 50-64 say it begins at 69. The next group, 65 and older, think it starts around 74.
Also, a strong flu virus can still take down a healthy immune system. Ask anyone who’s had the flu.
The point is, don’t let words like “ elderly” or “ weakened immune system” trick you into thinking that you don’t need to worry about getting a flu shot. Some people are more likely to get sicker than others, but anyone can catch the flu.
An estimated 5% to 20% of Americans come down with the flu every year. That leads to more than 200,000 hospital visits. Avoiding an emergency room visit, or sitting in a doctor’s office with other sick patients, are two really good reasons to get an annual flu shot.
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot each year. So, even if the flu season isn’t on the top of your list of concerns right now, file this important information away, and remember to get yourself and your family’s flu shot before the season sneaks up and catches you off guard. You’ll be glad you did!