There is no question but that an epidemic of influenza will occur during the 2016-2017 “flu season”. What is not known is when this epidemic will happen, the specific strains of flu virus responsible for illness, or the number or severity of cases of flu that will occur. For that reason, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that everyone 6 months and older receive the flu vaccine.
Every year certain things change regarding influenza immunization. Important aspects of this year’s recommendations from the ACIP Include:
- Only injectable flu shots are recommended for use this season. Last year, the use of a nasal flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV), was included as one of the option for flu immunization. This method of delivery was commonly used in children since it did not require receiving a “shot”. Because of concerns about its effectiveness, however, the ACIP does not recommend it use during the 2016-2017 flu season.
- Some flu vaccines are made using eggs which has raised concern regarding the possibility of causing an allergic reaction in someone with an egg allergy. The recommendations from the CDC for people with egg allergies have been updated for this season:
- Anyone who has experienced only hives after exposure to egg can get any licensed flu vaccine that is otherwise appropriate for their age and health.
- Someone who has had more severe symptoms, such as angioedema (swelling that affects deeper layers of the skin, often around the eyes and lips), breathing difficulty, lightheadedness, or recurrent vomiting can also receive any licensed flu vaccine that is otherwise appropriate for their age and health. The vaccine, however, should be given in a medical setting (hospital, clinic, health department, physician’s office) and be supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.
- Since human immune defenses become weaker with age, people 65 years and older are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu compared with young, healthy adults. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensed a new seasonal flu vaccine for adults 65 years of age and older. It contains an adjuvant, which is an ingredient added to the vaccine to create a stronger immune response to vaccination. This vaccine is marketed under the trade name FLUAD™ and will be available during the 2016-2017 flu season. Some studies have shown that FLUAD™ was significantly more effective in preventing influenza as compared to a standard influenza vaccine. The previous recommendation that individuals over the age of 65 receive a “high dose” flu vaccine remains in effect for the 2016-2017 flu season also.
It is impossible to predict whether this year’s vaccine will be a good match with the viruses that are ultimately found to be responsible for causing flu this season. Experts have to make an educated guess as to the strains that are likely to be responsible and make sure that the vaccine includes protection against these strains. Even if the match isn’t ideal, however, the antibodies made in response to vaccination against one type of flu virus often provide protection against other flu viruses. Overall the 2015-2016 season was relatively mild, but don’t let that lead to complacency regarding getting your flu shot. While not 100% protective, it is still the most effective way to reduce one’s risk of contracting influenza.
Source for article:
Influenza (Flu) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention