Every year, several different strains of the flu virus circulate around the globe. To best protect the public, public health researchers must determine the three or four viruses that they anticipate will be the most prevalent in the coming flu season, in order to develop the most comprehensive vaccination.
Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), acknowledged that 2014 was “a bad year for flu,” as a mutated strain of Type A influenza (H3N2) began spreading widely after the vaccine had already been developed and dispensed. Though flu vaccines are normally expected to be 50% – 60% effective, last year’s vaccine was ultimately only 13% effective in combating the 2014 – 2015 season’s predominant strain, H3N2, and only 23% effective overall.
The 2015-2016 flu vaccine includes the H3N2 virus that ran rampant last year, as well as a few other strains that are expected to make a substantial appearance this fall and winter. CDC specialists have already scrutinized 199 specimens collected this year. A majority of these specimens, 118 to be exact, were found to be H3N2 viruses that are vulnerable to this year’s vaccine. Another 20 of the specimens were H1N1 viruses similar to the strain that caused the swine flu pandemic in 2009 and 2010. Last year’s vaccine targeted this strain, and it has been selected for inclusion in this year’s vaccine as well. An additional 35 specimens were similar to the B/Phuket/3073/2013 virus that is included in all North American vaccines, while the remaining 26 were similar to the B/Brisbane/60/2008 virus included in the quadrivalent vaccines, which offer protection against four flu strains instead of just three.
With early research already showing that the viruses selected for inclusion in this year’s vaccine are a good match with the viruses currently circulating in the United States, health officials are confident that individuals who choose to get vaccinated this year will be much better protected against the flu during the 2015-2016 season.
Flu is especially dangerous for people over age 65, young children, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions such as asthma or heart disease. Golden Gate Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that all women, including those that are pregnant or breastfeeding, receive a flu shot every year. Talk to your Physician during your next appointment to learn more about this year’s flu vaccine and how it can benefit you.