The air is getting cooler and kids are going back to school, meaning flu season is close behind. This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the 2012-2013 flu vaccine formula for production by the country’s six flu vaccine manufacturers.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20 percent of Americans come down with the flu each year and over 200,000 people are hospitalized due to flu-related complications. The flu vaccine protects against the three most common flu strains predicted for that year.
The 2012-2013 vaccine will protect against the following viruses: A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus, A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus, B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus
The H1N1 virus was included in last year’s vaccine, but the H3N2 virus and the B virus are new this year, say scientists. Since two out of the three strains in this year’s vaccine are different, the FDA and the CDC urge all Americans to protect themselves by making an appointment for their annual flu shot. Vaccination is particularly important for high- risk populations, including children between the ages of 6 months and 19 years; adults ages 65 and older; people with chronic health conditions; people who live or work in nursing centers, assisted living centers, or healthcare facilities; anyone in frequent close contact with young children; caregivers of a sick or elderly person; and pregnant women.
Flu season peaks in January and February, but can start in early fall. It takes the human body two weeks to develop antibodies after vaccination, so schedule vaccines early in the season for the best results. Side effects are usually mild, such as redness and soreness at the injection site or a mild fever. The viruses used in the vaccines are inactive, so it is not possible to get the flu from a flu vaccine.
The vaccine is considered safe for the great majority of Americans. In very rare cases, some people can have serious reactions, say physicians.
The flu vaccine is available as an injection or a nasal spray. The injection is approved for general use. The nasal spray is approved for healthy people who are between the ages of 2 and 49 years and are not pregnant.