The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged everyone over the age of six months to get the annual flu vaccine in order to prevent serious illness and death. During a press conference in the US capital to mark the beginning of flu season, the health officials have vowed that this year's vaccine against influenza is better than last year's, which packed little punch against the most common strain of the virus.
Tom Frieden, director of the CDC said, "Flu is unpredictable but you can predict that the single best thing you can do to protect yourself is to get the vaccine. The vaccine has been updated to better match the H3N2 strain. He has urged pregnant women, older people, children and health care workers in particular to make sure they get vaccinated. Even in a good year, flu will result, in this country, in millions of cases of illness, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands or tens of thousands of deaths."
Frieden further added, "Last season, the predominant flu strain was H3N2, sometimes referred to as the Switzerland variant, and the vaccine was not well equipped to fight it because it emerged after the vaccine had already been mass-produced." The 2014-15 flu season had the highest hospitalization rate among seniors that the CDC had ever documented.
The predominance of the H3 flu strains last season made the illness of particular concern for seniors. Frieden said, "There were also 145 documented deaths from the flu among children, though the actual number is suspected to be higher. Overall the flu vaccine is usually 50-60% effective. Last year's effectiveness was quite low, and offered only about 13% protection against the common H3N2 strains, while the H1N1 and B strains were protected at a rate of 50-60%. About half of the US population got the shot last year. I hope that even more people will get vaccinated this year. Now is a good time to get a flu vaccine."