This year’s flu season is in full swing, but US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says it’s not too late to get the flu shot for 2022. She’s encouraging families to prioritize getting the flu shot, ensuring that the flu shot’s efficacy for 2022 against the dominant flu strains circulating is very high. Here’s what you need to know.
"We look in real time as to how well we think the influenza match is to what's circulating. And right now, the good news is that it looks like it is a very good match," Dr. Walensky explained at a news conference, per CBS News.
Last week, the CDC reported that most of the viruses tested are similar to the strains officials used to update flu vaccines this year. However, Dr. Walensky explained that even when the vaccine doesn’t match the dominating, circulating strains, there are significant benefits to getting vaccinated.
“We see a 35% decrease in rates of hospitalization … which really just emphasizes, when we do have a good match, how much more effective it will be,” she said.
The CDC is urging people to get their shots, and assuring folks that the vaccine is effective this year matters right now since flu season not only got an early start — but has also been extra virulent. CDC data shows that the flu has already infected 8.7 million people in the US, and caused death in 4,500 cases, and hospitalized 78,000 people. The flu is on a “record-setting path” that’s not been seen since 2010.
“An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu,” the CDC states. “Vaccination helps prevent infection and can also prevent serious outcomes in people who get vaccinated but still get sick with flu.”
Despite the push to encourage everyone to get their flu vaccine, flu shots are pacing behind what they should. CDC notes that vaccinations for pregnant people are down 12% from the same point last year. Seniors are down 3%, and vaccinations for children are down 5%.
In addition to getting the flu vaccine, the CDC encourages people to take other healthcare measures, such as washing their hands frequently and staying home if they’re sick.
“In the meantime, what I do want to say is, one need not take wait for CDC action in order to put a mask,” Dr. Walensky said.