You tell your friends, relatives, doctors, pharmacists, “I never get the flu and have never gotten the shots. Why should I start now? The flu shots don’t protect me at a high enough percentage level to get the shot.” The answer can be found in statistics cited from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
In the last three U.S. flu seasons, the CDC reported 440 pediatric deaths and 186,000 adult deaths with over 1 million hospitalizations related to influenza complications. In California over the last five years there have been 3,386 flu-related deaths, with 1,690 occurring in the 2017-2018 flu season. In almost all the cases, the children and adults had not been vaccinated against influenza.
For the 2019-2020 season, which started in October and ends in May, the CDC has already counted 784 flu related hospitalizations in the U.S. There have been more than 300 adult deaths and six pediatric deaths, two of which were in California. Last year in Alameda County, more than 40 deaths were linked to flu, with almost 400 flu-related hospitalizations.
Alameda County Health officer Dr. Nicholas J. Moss encouraged those who have put off getting the vaccination to go ahead with it now. “It’s not too late,” he said. “Flu activity is already on the rise in California. One of the best ways to prevent the flu is to get the vaccine.”
The 2018-2019 season lasted for over five months. The 2017-2018 season was the longest lasting U.S. influenza season in the past decade with reports of illness spread over almost seven months. How the 2019-2020 season develops remains to be seen.
“The severity of this year’s viruses is difficult to predict so early in the season,” said Dr. Flor M. Munoz, of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Disease.
The CDC states that the vaccine does not offer 100% protection, but it does reduce the possibility of getting the flu and, if you do become ill, the symptoms may be less severe. Year to year protection has ranged from the high 30% to almost 60% protection against the flu viruses circulating that year.
This year’s vaccines will protect against the four strains of the influenza virus expected to cause flu in the U.S. this season. Children, those older than 65, pregnant women, anyone with a compromised immune system or certain chronic illnesses are especially vulnerable to the flu virus.