The New Flu Vaccine Will Reportedly Beat Last Year's Shot: All the Details

flu vaccineFlu season is almost upon us, and while we don't expect you to cheer, here's something you CAN look forward to: The 2015 flu vaccine is now available, and it's supposedly much better than last year's problematic formulation.

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The 2014 flu vaccine was, as The Washington Post put it bluntly, "a disaster." The reason? A surprise strain called H3N2 popped up out of nowhere. H3N2 made tons of people sick and was responsible for the deaths of 145 children.

Flu shots typically are 50-60 percent effective in preventing you from getting sick. Last year, their effectiveness was about ... 13 percent.

But making a flu vaccine is complicated business -- and sounds kinda like a crapshoot. Looking at hospital data, modeling programs, and sample of viruses, researchers have to make their best educated guess as to which strains are going to be hardest-hitting in the upcoming season. (Hopefully they don't just pull names out of a hat.)

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To complicate matters, there are over 100 different kinds of subtypes and viruses constantly mutate.

But this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is optimistic that the latest flu shot formulation -- derived from the H1N1-like virus, H3N2-like virus, and influenza B -- is supposed to match mutational changes to these three dominant strains of the flu. In turn, it'll provide more coverage -- especially against H3N2, says the CDC. And of course, they're doing their usual hard sell to encourage EVERYONE to rush out and get it.

Should you?

Yes, says J. Lee Jenkins, MD, an emergency physician, researcher, and expert in Emergency Public Health at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. "The CDC has estimated that the flu vaccine can prevent 5-7 million illness each year, not to mention tens of thousands of hospital stays," Dr. Jenkins tells us.

And if you're one of those people (you know who you are!) who think, "Eh, how bad can the flu be?" consider Dr. Jenkins's take on this laissez-faire approach:

Often, we talk about deaths or hospitalizations from the flu. The reality is most people don't have to go to [the] hospital, but they are usually home sick, missing work and time with loved ones. Real flu often feels like you've been hit by a truck and it can take a week or more to feel better. Why give up a week of your life just because you didn't want to get a flu shot?

Everyone over the age of 6 should get vaccinated, Jenkins says. Especially children, people with chronic health problems, and those who work in the service industry or who have high contact with others.

She elaborates, "As a mother of two young girls, I would never want them to catch the flu at school, or worse, to catch the flu from me."

And THAT is the best reason yet we've heard to get a flu shot.

 

Image via Juanmonino/iStock

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