It’s never too early to start preparing for flu season, and that’s exactly what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging Americans to get their vaccines for the 2018-19 flu season by the end of October. Last year, seasonal influenza hit epidemic levels for 16 straight weeks and more than 700,000 people were hospitalized.
Everyone over 6 months old should get a flu shot. Children under the age of 5, adults over the age of 50, anyone pregnant, and those with chronic health conditions are especially at risk for severe influenza infection.
People should know that the flu shot can’t cause a person to get the flu. This has been demonstrated in several randomized controlled trials, said Dr. Judy Tung, an internal medicine physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. “Part of the reason why the flu shot is never 100 percent effective is because the flu virus is tricky and undergoes antigenic drifts (or genetic changes) all the time, forcing us to try to keep pace with these changes with annual vaccine updates. Drifts can happen within a season which renders the vaccine less than effective,” she explained. CDC announcement stated that this season’s vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses. Last year’s vaccine was not well matched, reducing the effectiveness to about 36%. Another perk to getting a flu shot, even if you’re not at high risk for the flu, is that it protects you and the people around you.