Two new strains of influenza are making their way around the world this year and the new updated flu vaccine appears to work well against them.
Surprisingly, babies over the age of 6 months, and toddlers are showing the best results according to a new goverment report.
Because of the mild flu season last year, many adults may have decided they don’t need the vaccine. But there’s no guarantee that the virus won’t bounce back with a vengeance this year.
Child deaths from the flu have made headlines in recent years and it appears parents have stepped it up to make sure their little ones are protected. Three-quarters of tots ages 6 months to 23 months were vaccinated. That's a significant jump from the previous year, when 68 percent of those youngsters were immunized.
A yearly vaccination now is recommended for nearly everybody, but new figures released Thursday show that last year 52 percent of children and just 39 percent of adults were immunized.
The only ones who shouldn't get vaccinated are babies younger than 6 months and people with severe allergies to the eggs used to make the vaccine.
Flu specialists can't say how bad this winter's flu season might be. Influenza strains constantly evolve, and some cause more illness than others.
But strains from the H3N2 family tend to be harsher than some other flu types, and a new H3N2 strain is included in this year's vaccine because it is circulating in parts of the world.
Because of that strain, "I am pretty confident that this year will be a more traditional flu season" than last year, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Jernigan told The Associated Press. "People won't have had any real exposure to that."
Only one ingredient in this year's flu vaccine was retained from last year's, protection against the H1N1 strain that caused the 2009 swine flu pandemic and has been the main kind of influenza circulating since. Also new in this year's shot is protection against a different Type B strain.
Other trends the CDC spotted last year:
- Roughly a third of teenagers got a flu vaccine.
- So did 45 percent of high-risk young and middle-aged adults, those who are particularly vulnerable to flu because they also have asthma, diabetes or any of a list of other health conditions.
- About 47 percent of pregnant women were vaccinated. Women have five times the risk of severe illness if they catch the flu when they're pregnant, and they can require hospitalization and suffer preterm labor as a result. Vaccination not only protects them, but recent research shows it also provides some protection to their newborns as well.
People can be vaccinated anytime, but Jernigan cautioned that it takes about two weeks for protection to kick in. Flu typically starts to appear in October or November, and peaks in January or February.
Insurance covers the flu vaccine as well as Medicare. Some plans don’t even require a co-pay. Talk to your pediatrician or family physician about scheduling your child’s flu shot today!