Earlier vaccination urged as flu season approaches

Health officials working to make flu shot more effective

Mass immunisation to combat the flu

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the flu, as well as flu-related complications, was responsible for 80,000 US deaths last winter.

Flu activity usually begins to increase in October and can last as late as May. "Getting your flu shot helps protect all, including older adults, very young children, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications".

'This is a flu vaccine that will significantly boost the effectiveness of the vaccine for people aged 65 and over, ' Dr Diggle said.

She said "kids are more likely to be immunized if their parents are" adding everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot, which is the recommendation of the CDC. "For some people, the flu is miserable, requiring days off school or work, and suffering through a fever and aches and pains".

Safranek said people should go ahead and get the shot now if they have an opportunity at a workplace clinic or an upcoming doctor's appointment. The 1918 flu pandemic, which lasted almost two years, killed more than 500,000 Americans, historians estimate.

To compare with other years in the history of having the flu shot, the flu typically kills about 12,000 Americans in a mild year.

This is why most health officials will agree that receiving a flu shot, even if its early, is much better than no flu shot at all.

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It eclipses the estimates for every flu season going back to the winter of 1976-1977.

The vaccine performed better against some strains than others. Dr. Sarah McIntire said more patients have had more questions earlier than usual this year.

"I think a lot of people had a bad experience past year", she said.

How well the vaccines protect people depends on how closely they match the viruses that are ultimately in circulation. Vaccines typically come in trivalent (protecting against three viruses - two A-strains and one B-strain) or quadrivalent (protecting against four strains - two A-strains and two B-strains).

Eighty percent of those children who died did not have a flu shot. The CDC recommends that vaccination should be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.

"There's a new flu vaccine out now; it's made based on predictions of what this year's strains will be", Ashton said, "so you do need to get it this fall".

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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