Last year’s flu vaccine didn’t work very well. This year’s version should do a much better job protecting people against the flu, federal health officials said Thursday.
An analysis of the most common strains of flu virus that are circulating in the United States and elsewhere found they match the strains included in this year’s vaccine, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The results will hopefully encourage more people to get their flu shots, CDC Director Thomas Frieden said during a news conference.
“Get vaccinated,” Frieden said. “That’s the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community against flu.”
The CDC recommends annual flu vaccination for people 6 months and older. The flu season in the U.S. can start as early as October and stretch into May. Cases typically peak between December and February.
Public health officials were surprised last year when the dominant strain of circulating flu mutated after the flu vaccine had been formulated. As a result, the vaccine was only about 13 percent effective against the main strain. The flu vaccine is usually about 50 percent to 60 percent effective.
The poor protection provided by the vaccine contributed to last year’s flu season being unusually hard on the elderly, Frieden said. Officials recorded the highest hospitalization rate from the flu among the elderly ever documented, Frieden said.
In addition to getting vaccinated, Frieden also urged people who get sick from the flu to stay home and to start taking antiviral drugs as soon as they can. Antiviral drugs can minimize the symptoms and help people get better faster, he said.
Published in NPR on September 17, 2015.