In response to lessons learned from the 2009-2010 H1N1 flu pandemic, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has voted for “universal” flu vaccination in the U.S. for the upcoming flu season. Bottom line: everyone aged 6 months or older should get a seasonal flu shot.
“Physicians should start vaccinating as soon as they get the vaccine,” advises Anat R. Feingold, MD, Head of Cooper’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease. “Immunity will last well through next year.“Data from last year showed that kids were disproportionately affected by the H1N1 flu,” she adds. “It’s not a mild illness, and we need to protect every kid we can because that’s how we help protect the rest of the population.”
Pregnant women are another high-risk group for whom immunization is particularly important.
“Pregnant women are far more susceptible to pneumonia and respiratory distress than non-pregnant women,” explains Richard L. Fischer, MD, Head of Cooper’s Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. “Plus, studies show that by immunizing the mother, it creates antibodies that cross the placenta and protect the neonate from infection during the first months of life,” he adds.
This season’s trivalent vaccine for the northern hemisphere will include the same H1N1 virus used in the 2009 H1N1 monovalent vaccine, along with a second “A” virus and a “B” virus. It will be available as a live, attenuated vaccine in nasal-spray form, and as an injectable in its inactivated form. Availability is predicted to be excellent.
There is zero risk of acquiring influenza from being immunized, both Dr. Feingold and Dr. Fischer emphasize, dispelling a common misconception among some patients.
“The flu vaccine risks are so minimal that there’s no reason not to be immunized,” he adds.