Home > Expert Insights, Science & Research, Seasonal Flu > What’s New With Flu This Season

What’s New With Flu This Season

whoneedsvaccine_white_250x300Every year people complain about holiday promotions hitting retail stores well in advance of the holiday.  While Christmas shopping in July never appealed to me, I have enjoyed seeing early flu vaccination promotions this season.   Whether it was during a quick stop at the corner pharmacy, a visit to my daughter’s school, or an advertisement on TV, flu vaccine promotions are encouraging people to get vaccinated early in order to protect themselves and others before they fall victim to the flu.  Considering the flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months of age and older, the message really couldn’t be any more direct.

But in the months since the 2012-1013 season concluded, people have likely forgotten about the suffering caused by the flu.  Which is why I have consolidated some of the more recent evidence that helps illustrate the many benefits of flu vaccination.

First off, it’s well documented that expectant women are one of the many demographics that are at a higher risk for serious complications from influenza.  Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs make pregnant women more susceptible to severe illness from flu and increase their risk of hospitalizations and death. Pregnant woman with flu also run the risk of developing serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery.

protecttwoFortunately, studies confirm that immunization during pregnancy helps protect the unborn baby through passive transfer of maternal antibodies.  A recent abstract published by the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society suggests influenza vaccination during the second and third trimester of pregnancy has the potential to confer up to 35 times more protection in the children of those who were vaccinated during pregnancy,  as compared to those who were not.  And that is crucial protection for newborns who can’t be vaccinated until they are six months of age.  And while flu vaccination has been recommended for pregnant women since 2004, a recent study revealed another great reason pregnant women should get vaccinated; falling ill with the flu during pregnancy may quadruple your child’s risk for bipolar disorder.

Yet pregnant women aren’t the only demographic that tends to have an extremely high risk of complications from influenza infections.   Children with various neurologic conditions and epilepsy are also at increased risk, yet according to the September 13th issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, only 50% of these children received an influenza vaccine during the 2011-2012 season.  Given the high risk of complications these children may experience if they should fall ill, it’s critical that both parents and providers are aware of the need for precautionary flu vaccination for those who suffer with these conditions.

Lately, there’s been discussion regarding research out of Australia.  A study, published in BMJ Heart in August, concluded that flu vaccination reduces a person’s risk of developing a  heart attack by almost 50%.

However, one of the most exciting flu vaccine developments this year centers around the availability of a quadrivalent influenza vaccine (IIV4).  These vaccines, limited to an estimated 30 million doses this year, will offer protection from four different influenza strains, as opposed to just three strains that are included in the trivalent vaccine (IIV3).  A complete list of the vaccines offered this season is available here and should help assist the public in understanding the variety of choices this season.

While it will be interesting to see whether quadrivalent vaccines will help reduce the incidence of flu this year, the hope is that a universal flu shot will become available within the next five years.  Recent reports indicate that significant progress has been made in the development of a universal flu vaccine that would target some of the viruses’ core elements.  If this is accomplished, the vaccine would no longer have to be changed from year to year,and could potentially eliminate the need for flu vaccines to be re-administered each year.

Until that time comes, we will reflect on seasons’ past and remind ourselves of how unpredictable influenza can be. Last year’s surveillance data illustrates the dangers of influenza rather clearly.  First, we witnessed record high hospitalization rates, especially in people aged 65 and older, resulting in the highest number of hospitalizations in this age group since flu tracking began in the 2005-06 season. Last season also concluded with the highest incidence of pediatric deaths since surveillance began (excluding the pandemic year).  A total of 161 children died as a result of influenza.

In an effort to encourage preparedness this season, there will be a special press conference September 26th, from 10-11 am, EST at the National Press Club in DC.  A panel of flu experts will be on hand, including Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, Assistant Secretary for Health, and Anne Schuchat, MD, Assistant Surgeon General and Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.  They will be discussing the vaccination coverage rates for the 2012-2013 season, the vaccine supply for 2013-2014, the strains included in this year’s vaccines, and the variety of vaccine options available to the public this season.  To listen to the press conference via live webcast simply access www.visualwebcaster.com/NFID2013-NewsConference.  Or join via teleconference at 800-277-3988.

When it comes to flu, we must realize that everyone, from 6-month-old infants to grandparents, should get a seasonal influenza vaccination as soon as possible.  In doing so, we each represent an important link in the chain of protection for all. 

  1. September 26, 2013 at 7:50 am

    Our school system is setting up clinics for all of the students & parents in a couple of weeks – we’re already scheduled (and the clinic has been expanded twice already, due to the increased demand).

    All in all, excellent news!!!

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  2. September 26, 2013 at 10:19 am

    A great reminder for everyone to get their flu shot. Our pediatrics department is putting out a memo reminding people of some of the changes in the vaccine this year which may make it even more efficacious and/or better tolerated or more broadly applicable–like the quadrivalent vaccines that cover an additional Flu B strain. Or the recombinant vaccine for adults that is entirely egg-free and so there is no allergy-relayed reason not to get it. Or the intradermal vaccine which only uses as much liquid (0.1 ml) as a TB skin test and so may be better appreciated in those who dislike shots. And of course there are even greater prospects for new vaccines on the horizon! Barely any excuse to not get vaccinated yearly.

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  3. September 26, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Our clinic is on Saturday. Can’t say I’m looking forward to getting a shot – or having my child get one – but I will be glad to know we’re all as protected as medical science can make us, at the low price of a moment of pain.
    One day, they’ll come up with that patch instead of the injection.

    Like

  4. novalox
    September 26, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Be going to a free flu shot clinic that the hospital I volunteer at will be offering. I do know that working with vulnerable patients, a flu shot is another way I can help prevent them from getting flu complications.

    But yes, a universal flu vaccine would be great, as it would help to eliminate the need for yearly vaccinations, which can be a chore.

    And yes, the flu is not a fun thing to get.

    Like

  5. Robert
    October 13, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Everyone in our family and all our friends are now wise to this dangerous and risky shot.

    I repeat what I just posted at another one of these deceptive articles backing vaccines.;

    This information at this link is so true. It was sent by a relative who was hard to convince on vaccine truth. ’11 REASONS WHY FLU SHOTS ARE MORE DANGEROUS THAN THE FLU ITSELF’

    http://rawforbeauty.com/blog/the11-reasons-why-flu-shots-are-more-dangerous-than-the-flu-itself.html

    “The verdict is out on flu shots. Many medical experts now agree it is more important to protect yourself and your family from the flu vaccine than the flu itself.
    Every year the pharmaceutical industry, medical experts and the mainstream media work hard to convince us to get vaccinated against the flu.
    But we’re not being told the whole story.
    What we don’t hear, are cases about the adverse reactions or about the toxic chemicals being injected into us.’

    Read more at the link

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  6. October 13, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Wow, really? Trotting out those old tropes? The injectable flu shot does not contain live flu virus so does not give people the flu. Single dose flu vials do not contain thimerosal or mercury. The doctors who ‘push’ flu vaccine make very little if any money off the vaccine because insurance conpanies barely reomburse. Influenza kills thousands of people a year. The vaccine kills none. The evidence for this is incontrovertible based on established scientific fact and studies whereas the points posted in your link have all been debunked. To encourage people not to get vaccinated is to encourage people to risk their lives and livelihood by encouraging them to get influenza. You should be ashamed of yourself.

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  7. Lawrence
    October 13, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    @Robert – even the Cochrane Collaboration admits that the flu shot is one of the safest vaccines available…..and again, you keep repeating the same lies, misinformation and misinterpretation of data.

    Like

  8. novalox
    October 14, 2013 at 2:34 am

    @Saul Hymes, Lawrence

    I think robert is incapable of shame, seeing that he keeps repeating the same old lies and pseudoscience that has been repeatedly been debunked over and over again.

    Pretty much, robert’s arguments are PRATT.

    Like

  9. October 16, 2013 at 7:21 pm

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