This season’s updated flu vaccine has reduced hospitalization risks in South America, offering a promising sign as the U.S. heads toward a flu season that may be amplified by other respiratory illnesses.
Data collected from Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile found the new flu vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalization by 52%, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The mid-season data are based on information from about 3,000 patients who were hospitalized between March and July and focus on high-risk groups who are the focal point of flu vaccination campaigns, like young children, the elderly and those with preexisting conditions.
Flu season in the Southern Hemisphere typically peaks around June or July, but the CDC reports it had an early start this year, peaking around April and May.
Because of this, the agency expects flu activity in the U.S. and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere to increase within the coming weeks.
About 90% of all positive specimens collected in the Southern Hemisphere were Influenza Type A and 10% were Type B, though this makeup could be different in the U.S. because flu type trends in the Southern Hemisphere don’t necessarily predict what will dominate in the Northern Hemisphere.
173.37 million. That’s how many flu vaccines were administered in the U.S. during the 2022 and 2023 flu season, according to the CDC. Around 55% of kids aged six months and 17 years and 47.4% of adults 18 and older received a flu shot by April 2023.
Though flu cases are expected to rise soon, Covid is still the dominant respiratory virus circulating in the U.S. Covid-related hospitalizations increased by almost 9% between August 4 and September 2 and deaths increased by 10.5% between July 15 and September 5. The FDA approved new Covid boosters from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech on Monday, which specifically target the XBB omicron sublineage, the most dominant strain circulating in the U.S. Earlier this month, the CDC issued an alert warning that respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases were rising in parts of the Southeast, though they weren’t near last year’s levels. The CDC said it’s urging healthcare providers to administer the two newly approved RSV vaccines for infants and people 60 years and older in an effort to fight against severe illness.
Annual flu shots are available, and the CDC recommends everyone six months and older to get an updated flu shot between September and October, before cases peak. Though there’s plenty of research showing the safety and effectiveness of flu shots, many Americans avoid getting vaccinated. One of the biggest reasons is because of common side effects that may accompany the vaccine, like fever, muscle aches and nausea, according to the American Medical Association. However, these side effects should not be confused with the flu because flu vaccines cannot give someone the flu and cannot prevent non-flu viruses. In order to combat negative feelings about the flu vaccine, the CDC rolled out the “Wild to Mild” campaign, which celebrates the vaccine’s ability to take flu symptoms from severe to mild. Bill Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, told CNN that healthcare professionals need to make it more clear flu vaccines and other respiratory illness vaccines “aren’t very good at preventing milder disease. They’re much better at preventing the serious complications.”
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