The flu vaccine might not be as effective this year against a common and virulent strain, H3N2, but local public health officials say that’s no reason to abandon the shot altogether.
The vaccine is about 20 to 30 percent effective against H3N2 — something researchers say was caused by a mutation that occurred in the strain while creating the vaccine. The flu vaccines offered this year reduce the risk of getting other strains of the flu by between 40 and 60 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Now, just weeks before the height of flu season is expected to hit, public health officials are urging people to get vaccinated as soon as possible. It takes roughly two weeks for the body to develop antibodies after the vaccine is administered, health officials say.
“Some protection is better than no protection,” Kern County Public Health Services Department spokeswoman Michelle Corson said, stressing the importance of the vaccination. “The flu shot is your best defense against getting the flu and that remains to be the case.”
Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, can impact anyone, but serious complications can occur for people 65 and older, those with certain chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease, and in pregnant women and young children, according to the CDC.
Kern County reported two deaths last year associated with the flu, and had four severe cases. This year, there have been no severe cases or related deaths, Corson said.
The Kern Public Health department is urging anyone who hasn’t yet received a vaccination — especially those in high risk groups — to get the flu shot. The Kern County Public Health Clinic, 1800 Mt. Vernon Avenue, offers them for $9.
The department is also urging people to practice good hygiene, including hand-washing, covering your mouth while coughing, and anything else to stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses during the flu season’s height.