Flu Shot Highly Recommended This Year

Sept. 29, 2021 — With the Delta variant of COVID-19 nonetheless raging within the United States and intensive care items in elements of the nation full of sufferers with the coronavirus, specialists are voicing concern concerning the added threat of a tough flu season.

Two mathematical fashions are predicting an enormous rebound within the quantity and severity of flu circumstances within the 2021-22 season after final yr’s flu season failed to indicate up when public well being measures introduced in to manage COVID-19 appeared to have the additional benefit of stopping the flu.

But each analyses, posted to the medRxiv preprint server and never but peer-reviewed by different specialists, have come to the identical conclusion: The flu may make a comeback this yr.

In the worst-case state of affairs, the U.S. may see an additional 300,000 to 400,000 hospitalizations from the flu — virtually double the same old quantity — based on senior examine creator Mark Roberts, MD, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory on the University of Pittsburgh. These numbers might be a catastrophe in areas the place hospitals are already full of COVID-19 sufferers.

Waning pure immunity within the public as a consequence of final yr’s lacking flu season may make individuals, particularly younger youngsters, extra prone to get the virus.

“Usually, a combination of natural immunity and vaccination helps tamp down seasonal influenza,” says Roberts. “If we don’t have the first part, we’ll have to rely more on the vaccine.”

In a typical yr, about half of Americans get the flu shot. The new mathematical fashions predict that the vaccination price would wish to rise to about 75% to keep away from the additional hospitalizations. But even a ten% enhance in vaccination charges may cut back hospitalizations by 6% to 46%, relying on what strains are dominant.

Usually, the Southern Hemisphere flu season, from February to August, helps present what the Northern Hemisphere can anticipate over the approaching winter. But with strict COVID-19 measures and limits on worldwide journey nonetheless in place in nations like Australia and New Zealand and far of South America, it has been one other document low yr for flu infections, says Ian Barr, PhD, deputy director of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne, Australia.

Australia detected solely round 500 circumstances this yr, in contrast with about 300,000 in a standard yr, and recorded no hospitalizations or deaths from the flu. New Zealand recorded simply two circumstances.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Barr says.

In Australia, the gentle flu season led to fewer individuals getting their flu shot than typical. The price fell from round 50% to only 33%, says Barr. “If that happens in the U.S., the population will be even more vulnerable because there has been almost no flu for more than 12 months,” he says.

Both Roberts and Barr say it’s vital that as many individuals as attainable get vaccinated in the course of the upcoming flu season, particularly youngsters who can have virtually no pure immunity to the virus.

“The vaccine is our best weapon against the flu, especially for the most at-risk groups,” says Barr.

Other elements of the world had combined outcomes. India noticed a excessive variety of flu circumstances, whereas neighbouring Sri Lanka had only a few. West Africa additionally noticed fairly a excessive degree of circulating virus. Overall, the flu was detected in 45 nations in the course of the Southern Hemisphere season, lower than half of what is likely to be anticipated in a standard yr, says Barr.

Despite the general low numbers, the WHO noticed sufficient within the knowledge to make two changes to subsequent yr’s Southern Hemisphere vaccine formulation at its assembly on Sept. 24, after altering simply one of many strains for the Northern Hemisphere vaccine at its assembly final February.

The CDC recommends that everybody 6 months or older get the flu shot, with few exceptions.

WebMD Health News


MedRxiv: “Predicting the impact of low influenza activity in 2020 on population immunity and future influenza season in the United States,” “Agent-based Investigation of the Impact of Low Rates of Influenza on Next Season Influenza Infections.”

Mark Roberts, MD, director, Public Health Dynamics Laboratory, University of Pittsburgh.

Ian Barr, PhD, deputy director, World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center for Reference and Research on Influenza, Melbourne, Australia.

World Health Organization: “Recommended composition of influenza virus vaccines for use in the 2022 southern hemisphere influenza season.”

CDC: “Frequently Asked Influenza (Flu) Questions: 2021-2022 Season.”

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