by Tia Will
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared a flu (influenza) epidemic in the United States. There has been antigenic drift in one of the strains of the virus seen circulating now versus the strain chosen for the vaccine. Therefore, it is extremely important for providers to promptly treat all patients with influenza-like-illness (ILI), even women who have been vaccinated. To date there have been 21 pediatric deaths and more than double the number of hospitalizations from the previous flu season. So far, among the 35 hospitalized women of childbearing age (15-44 years), 12 (34.3%) were pregnant. ACOG and CDC recommend everyone 6 months and older receive a flu shot each year. Vaccination is particularly important for pregnant women who are at higher risk of complications and severe illness from influenza. “
I realize that most of the readership of the Vanguard is not in the demographic of pregnant women. I think it is especially important for those who do not perceive personal risk to be aware of the importance of immunization to our families, neighbors, coworkers and fellow citizens.
I have heard many people stating that they do not intend to get the flu immunization this year because they have heard it is not effective because of the “antigenic drift” of this year’s most prominent type of viral influenza. While this is true, and the vaccine is less than optimally effective against the dominant strain, it is effective against the next most prevalent strain and does provide some protection against the most common strain in that those who are immunized tend to have less severe symptoms if they do contract the flu.
Even if you do not perceive that you need the flu vaccination for your own protection, I would strongly recommend that you get it for the protection of those you love including infants, pregnant women, those with respiratory illnesses and the elderly all of whom may benefit, or even have their life saved by your choice to get a flu shot.