SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Federal health officials have released the latest update to an annual question: How well does this year's flu vaccine work?
The 2019-2020 flu vaccine cut by about half the risk of getting sick and having to go to the doctor for the flu, according to estimates released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, Feb. 21.
The vaccine effectiveness against any flu virus was 45%, which means it is working better than the vaccine variants released each flu season since 2015-2016, CDC data shows.
Each year the vaccine is formulated to fight what experts expect will be the upcoming season's strongest flu strains. The effectiveness report card is valuable, because it shows how much the flu season matched predictions and protected those who got the vaccine.
The vaccine is working best against infections in children up to age 17, warding off 55% of possible infections, CDC data shows.
The vaccine effectiveness for children is worth noting, because there have been 105 pediatric flu deaths in the U.S. so far this season according to federal health officials, including in Minnesota. That's higher than for any season since 2004-2005, excluding the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, North Dakota health officials noted in a Monday news release. Many of the 144 pediatric deaths reported nationwide during the 2018-2019 flu season occurred in children who hadn't received the vaccine, they said.
“Influenza activity is currently high in North Dakota. It is not too late to be vaccinated against influenza. Everyone six months and older should be vaccinated, regardless of age or health status,” said Levi Schlosser, influenza surveillance coordinator with the North Dakota Department of Health in the news release. “Anyone can get the flu, including healthy individuals, and getting the flu vaccine is the easiest and safest way to protect yourself, as well as your friends, family, and community this season.”
Health officials emphasize that those who haven't gotten the vaccine yet should do so, even though we've likely reached the midpoint of flu season. The vaccine takes two weeks to provide full protection, but can not only ward off the illness, it can reduce how bad your flu is if you catch it, and reduce the chance you'll be hospitalized.
CDC's flu site: www.cdc.gov/flu
To quickly find a place to get a flu shot: vaccinefinder.org
For information about the flu and your children, Doorn recommends parents visit the American Academy of Pediatrics site - HealthyChildren.org.
Each state has its own web page with details on the flu season, including the most recent totals of infections, hospitalizations and deaths:
- North Dakota: www.ndflu.com
- Minnesota: www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/flu
- South Dakota: doh.sd.gov/diseases/infectious/flu
- Wisconsin: www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/influenza