PLAN AHEAD FOR THE 2020-2021 FLU SEASON
“Not getting a vaccine is like not wearing a mask”, said Dr. Randy Bergen, clinical lead for Kaiser Permanente Northern California flu vaccine program.
Depending on how well manufacturers of flu vaccines are able to predict which viral strains will be most prevalent in the upcoming season, a flu shot does not always guarantee full immunity. Even so, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to be vaccinated, especially in vulnerable populations. Vaccine manufacturers are expecting a 15% increase in vaccination rates compared to last year.
The "recurring mutations" of the influenza virus make it impossible to create a vaccine that will be effective against every strain of the flu. Each season's flu shot is composed of the most frequent strains isolated in the previous season. Studies show that vaccination reduces the risk of illness by 40% to 60% when the flu viruses circulating are well-matched to the vaccine, according to the CDC.
There are many different types of vaccines:
b) Fluzone High Dose
2) Quadrivalent vaccines, for those 6 months of age and older, include:
3) Flucelvax, for ages 4 and up
4) Flublok, egg-free for those 18 years and up
5) Flumist, a Live Nasal vaccine, for ages 2 to 49
The CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 140,000 to 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 to 61,000 deaths in the United States, annually since 2010. Fortunately, due to social distancing and mask-wearing this year, countries in the Southern Hemisphere that have their winter during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer, such as Argentina and New Zealand, have already seen an unprecedented drop in their flu cases in May and June.
The 2020-2021 vaccine should be widely available by September, though the CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, because it takes two weeks for the immune system to develop antibodies and provide protection. (Flu season typically runs from late October through early April.) Getting vaccinated later can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later. Getting vaccinated early (in July or August) is likely to be associated with diminished protection against flu infection later in the flu season, particularly among older adults. Be sure to contact your physician or pharmacist for additional information.