Here it is, fall. The signs are all here: down to 105 degrees (getting chilly here in Phoenix), my youngest obsessing about Halloween and a new influenza vaccine for 2015-16. Is there influenza news? Of course there is!
H3N2 is back for an encore. It was the dominant influenza virus last year, and was not well matched to the 2014-15 vaccine. That produced some record hospitalizations for influenza. The current vaccine is very well matched for H3N2 and will offer excellent protection.
Influenza vaccine is a big deal. We make 170 million doses each year. It is already distributed and in stock at your local U.S. HealthWorks clinic, pharmacy and even some grocery stores (usually with a nurse at a table in the produce section).
Predictions were made as to the likely dominant viruses, based on Southern Hemisphere circulation viruses last year. The flu viruses, especially type A, continually changes year to year. That understandably complicates the choosing, but the vaccine is on target historically 80 to 90 percent of the time. Of course we cheat by including vaccines against three or four different flu viruses each year. Belt and suspenders… this year the match is perfect!
Recently we found our senior citizens were not responding to the flu vaccine as well as younger people. Since our seniors suffer the most from influenza each year, a better mousetrap was sought. High Antigen Influenza Vaccine for seniors has four times the antigen level of normal vaccine. This produces much better immunity in the senior population.
“Having it your way” is a trend that has even affected flu vaccine production. We now have trivalent and quadravalent (three- and four-way) injectable vaccines for children to adults. High Antigen injectable for seniors, Intradermal (pneumatic) flu vaccine, and live (weakened) virus nasal vaccine.
All this effort is simply to get you vaccinated against influenza, a week or two before you are exposed. Then you won’t join the 5 million serious cases of influenza or the 250,000 to 500,000 deaths that occur worldwide each and every year.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.
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