Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in a press release that “flu vaccination last season prevented an estimated 7.2 million flu-associated illnesses and 90,000 flu hospitalizations.”
Yet despite this finding, less than half of Americans have received a flu vaccine so far this season. The press release continues:
The 2013-2014 influenza vaccine program impact data was released in a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) dated December 11, 2014. In this report, CDC used a model first published in June 2013 in PlosOne to estimate the benefits of flu vaccination. These 2013-2014 estimates represent a 17% reduction in the number of flu illnesses and hospitalizations that would have occurred last season in an unvaccinated population.
The report also underscores the severity of flu; estimating that there were 35.4 million influenza-associated illnesses, 14.6 medically attended flu illnesses, and 314,000 flu hospitalizations in the United States last season. The 2013-2014 flu season was characterized as “moderately severe,” with the H1N1 pandemic virus predominating in the United States for the first time since the 2009 pandemic. The report also notes that if vaccination rates were improved to 70 percent, another 5.9 million flu illnesses, 2.3 million medically attended illnesses, and 42,000 flu hospitalizations could have been prevented.
Flu is unpredictable and every season is different. CDC held a telebriefing last week to discuss the current flu season, noting that H3N2 flu viruses are predominant so far. H3N2-predominant seasons are often associated with more hospitalizations and deaths, especially in young children and older people. The agency also highlighted laboratory information indicating that about half of analyzed H3N2 viruses this season are different from the H3N2 vaccine virus; a factor which may reduce how well the vaccine protects against those drifted H3N2 viruses.
Have you received your flu vaccine yet? According to Flu.gov, seniors are at risk for flu complications:
As you age, your immune system weakens. This weakening makes seniors—adults 65 years and older— more susceptible to the flu. For seniors, the seasonal flu can be very serious, even deadly. Ninety percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older.
Whether you work in an Assisted Living community or plan on visiting with your older loved ones during the holiday season, give them the gift of health by getting a vaccine and helping to prevent the spread of the flu. Want to know where to get vaccinated? The Flu Vaccine Finder map can find a location near you.