February 14, 2019
With health officials predicting the worst of this year’s flu activity is ahead, you may want to consider getting a flu shot if you haven't already, especially since this year's vaccine is reportedly more effective than last year's formulation.
According to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the effectiveness of this year's vaccine is estimated at 47 percent, significantly higher than the 36 percent rate recorded during the 2017-2018 flu season, which claimed the lives of more than 250 people in Pennsylvania alone, TIME reported.
The difference is partly because the dominant influenza virus last year, H3N2, is known to cause more serious illnesses and to be less responsive to vaccination than other strains. This year, H1N1 — which is more easily targeted by the flu shot — has been circulating most widely, leading to less-severe and fewer illnesses overall.
RELATED READ: Does doubling up on flu shots provide more protection?
It's no secret — and there are studies to back it up — that vaccination can help reduce the risk of flu-related deaths in kids, reported CNN, which cited studies showing that 80 percent of the children in the United States who died from flu last season were unvaccinated.
Despite this more effective vaccine and less-severe flu season, the death toll is rising for the illness. The CDC estimates that the flu has infected as many as 15 million Americans mid-way through this season, resulting in more than seven million medical visits, 186,000 hospitalizations and nearly 16,000 deaths, TIME reported.
As a reminder, the CDC recommends flu shots for nearly every American older than six months of age, with few exceptions. Additionally, you can keep tabs on all flu-related news and updates via the CDC’s weekly updates here.