Submitted to the Williams Pioneer Review
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the initial “FluView” report for the U.S. 2011-2012 flu season with the message that flu activity is currently low, making this the perfect time to get vaccinated. There should be lots of vaccine available, because the supply is projected to set a U.S. record.
“It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body’s immune response to fully kick in,” says Joe Bresee, M.D., Chief of CDC’s Influenza Epidemiology and Prevention Branch. “It’s best to get vaccinated before activity begins so that you’ll be protected once flu season starts in your community.”
CDC routinely monitors influenza activity in the United States year-round with a system that determines when and where influenza activity is occurring, determines what influenza viruses are circulating and detects changes in influenza viruses. The system also measures the burden of influenza disease in the United States, including tracking influenza related illness, hospitalizations and deaths.
“We know from our first report for this season that influenza activity in the United States is low now, with few people going to the doctor for flu-like symptoms and few respiratory viruses testing positive for flu,” says Bresee. “Though we can’t predict the exact timing, we expect increases in influenza illness, hospitalizations and deaths in the next few weeks,” he said.
More than 110 million doses of vaccine had been delivered in the United States as of the end of September, with manufacturers projecting total production of between 166 and 173 million doses. This is the most flu vaccine ever produced for the U.S. market.
“The good news,” Bresee says, “is that the flu viruses this year’s vaccine will protect against are very well matched to those flu viruses that are circulating now, so it’s looking like we will have a vaccine that provides good protection this season to help keep influenza illness and serious complications down.”
With rare exceptions, CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine. This season, people have more options than ever in this regard, both in terms of where they get vaccinated and which vaccine they chose to get.
While doctor’s offices and health departments continue to provide flu vaccinations, vaccine also is available at many pharmacies, work places and other retail and clinic locations.
In addition to the traditional seasonal flu shot that has been available for decades, a nasal spray vaccine was introduced in 2003 for non-pregnant healthy people between 2 and 49 years of age, and a high dose flu shot was introduced last season for people 65 and older. Also, new for this season is an intradermal shot, which uses a needle 90 percent smaller than the regular flu shot and is approved for people 18 to 64 years of age.
Each week, CDC receives reports from international, state and local participants and within 48 hours compiles and analyzes that data to produce a report that provides comprehensive situational awareness regarding influenza activity in the United States. “From our perspective, the time to get vaccinated is now,” Bresee concludes.