This Year’s Flu Shot Expected To Be More Effective Than Last Year

Nurse Giving Patient an Injection.Every year the makeup of the flu shot is slightly different based upon the current strains of the flu going around. Last year’s flu shot proved largely ineffective compared to past years, prompting a much more effective strain to be produced for the upcoming flu season.

Flu season starts as early as October and extends as late in the year as May; flu cases tend to peak around January.

2014-2015 flu season was very severe as the flu shot failed to be as effective as it has been in the past. This past year’s flu was especially hard on the elderly population who were hospitalized in greater numbers than hospitals have seen in over a couple decades. From October 2014 to April 2015 there were a total of 322 hospitalizations per every 100,000 people over 65-years-old in the U.S. This can be compared to the 2012-2013 flu season, which saw a much smaller 183 flu-related hospitalizations per 100,000 people over 65.

As a result of last year’s flu shot, federal health officials have had vaccine manufacturers produce a vaccine with 2 new influenza strains for next season’s shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this addition should make the 2015 to 2016 flu shot much more effective. The CDC also promises to be better prepared this year to handle the current strains going around.

Why Was Last Year’s Flu Shot So Disappointing?

The CDC has reported that anyone who received the flu shot last year was around 19% less likely to develop flu symptoms than someone who did not get the flu shot. Most other years, people who receive the flu shot are 1/3 less likely to get the flu than someone who has not had the vaccine. Case and point: in 2012 and 2013 people that got the flu shot were 56% less likely to contract the flu.

What Went Wrong Last Flu Season?

The real reason the 2014-2015 flu shot proved less effective than normal had to do with a mismatch between the flu strains provided in the vaccine and the strains going around. The majority of flu illnesses caused in the fall and winter were linked to a specific viral strain known as H3N2. 80% of the H3N2 viruses going around were not the same as the H3N2 strain included in the shot.

The CDC explains the reason for this mix up has to do with a slight genetic change in the virus’s makeup. These changes take place slowly overtime and alter the effectiveness of a vaccine. In other words, this specific altered form of the H3N2 was immune to the vaccine.

What Are We Going To Do About It?

This year should be filled with far less illness, as the new flu vaccine is expected to be more effective. Health officials plan to switch out one of the three strains scheduled to be included in next season’s three-in-one flu shot.

The trivalent flu vaccine is formulated to protect against two strains of influenza A, including H1N1 and H3N2, and one influenza B strain. While the 2015-1016 flu season will still include the same H1N1 strain and influenza B strain, it will also include a different H3N2 strain titled A/Switzerland/9715293/2013 (H3N2-like virus).

2 of the 4 strains added to the quadrivalent four-in-one flu shot will also be switched out. The quadrivalent flu vaccine protects you from the same strains as the trivalent vaccine, and also protects against an added influenza B virus.

Should You Get The Flu Shot?

Getting the flu vaccine will cause your body to build up antibodies against the illness within 2 weeks of getting the shot. As a result your body will know how to fight back if you come into contact with a flu virus.

Yet, after last year’s unsuccessful run many people are questioning the need for a flu shot this year. No matter what, getting a flu shot will help prevent you from getting sick and/or decrease how sick you get if you come in contact with the virus. The flu shot will not adversely impact your health but it could prevent you from missing a week of work or school.

Getting the flu shot is a personal decision largely based on your own risk factors for getting the flu. Age and current health greatly impact how the flu will affect you, most flu-related deaths occur in people 65 and older.

The CDC recommends everyone over 6 months of age should get a flu shot every season. If the majority of people are vaccinated it helps prevent an illness from rapidly spreading through a community. 

Since virus strains change every year you need to get the flu shot annually to continually prevent illness. If you are at a heightened risk due to age or health factors getting the flu shot is even more important. Different groups of people are advised to get different strains of the vaccination. A doctor should help you decide on which strain is right for you.

(Keyfacts from CDC)

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