Will This Year’s Flu Shot Protect You?

Should you still get your flu shot if this year’s vaccination isn’t as effective as planned? Health experts around the country are agreeing that even though the vaccine isn’t perfect, it’s still worth getting.

In a Dec. 4 announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared that roughly half of the H3N2 viruses analyzed were drift variants, meaning that the strain had mutated, making the flu vaccine less effective. CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, recommended that Americans be prepared for a severe flu season, although it’s still too early to say for sure.

Yesterday, CNN reported that the most common strain of the flu virus is influenza A (H3N2), which has been linked to higher rates of hospitalization and death, especially for those at high risk for complications. Although a H3N2-type virus was one of the three strains chosen to include in this year’s vaccine, the drift variant makes the vaccine less effective.

“Some of the strains in this year’s vaccine have drifted (changed) and the vaccine may be less effective against those strains,” explains Uma Savanoor, MD, MPH, director, medical operations, OccuHealth and Employee Health at ProMedica.

“Regardless, the flu vaccine inoculates against multiple strains of the flu and it’s still important to get a flu shot. Choosing not to get a flu shot leaves you completely defenseless against any strain, while getting the vaccine will give you defense against those strains contained in this year’s formula.”

Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu, but it’s not the only way. Dr. Savanoor advises that you:

  • Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands frequently, don’t share your drinking cups, etc.
  • Stay home from work, school or other activities if you are ill.
  • Contact your doctor and treat your symptoms before they escalate if you are ill.

To learn more about the flu, visit the CDC’s flu website.