An abundance of vaccine in the United States for the 2012-2013 flu season should mean that people have no reason not to get inoculated against this troublesome virus. What it could mean, though, is that the ordinariness of another flu season — without the drama of a few years back when vaccine supplies ran short — won’t grab people’s attention and that vaccine will remain on the shelf.
That would be a bad thing, not only for those who get sick but also for those whom they make sick.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the vaccine for the upcoming flu season protects against the swine flu, H3N2 and B flu strains.
While the H1N1 virus used to make the 2012-13 flu vaccine is the same virus that was included in the 2011-12 vaccine, the recommended influenza H3N2 and B vaccine viruses are different from those in the 2011-12 influenza vaccine for the Northern Hemisphere.
Manufacturers have projected that they will produce up to 149 million doses of vaccine. During the past flu season — which runs from October to May — 132.8 million doses of flu vaccine were distributed in the United States, the CDC says.
Neither is there a shortage of places to get a vaccination.
The CDC recommends everyone at least 6 months of age get a flu vaccination. The agency stresses the importance of vaccinations for people who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease; pregnant women; and people 65 years and older — all of whom run a higher risk of developing pneumonia if they get the flu.
Flu viruses are tricky organisms; that’s one reason we need a flu shot every year. It’s not uncommon that a new flu virus appears each season and the vaccine is formulated anew to combat the flu viruses as they change. The CDC also says multiple studies show that our immunity to flu viruses, acquired either through natural infection or vaccination, declines over time.
This year, outbreaks of H3N2v — not only a new but a variant virus linked to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus — have been reported in multiple states. The CDC says the “main risk factor for infection is prolonged exposure to pigs, mostly in agricultural fair settings.” No cases have been reported in North Carolina, but children younger than 5 and people at high risk for any flu virus are urged to avoid pigs and pig arenas at fairs this season. Seasonal vaccine is not expected to protect against H3N2v.
It will protect against the flu you’re most likely to be exposed to, though. For your sake and for the sake of the people around you, get a shot. Stay healthy.
The New Bern Sun Journal