Flu Shots for (Nearly) All

Feedloader (Clickability)

Should you get vaccinated for the flu this year? Yes, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they have fewer qualifiers than usual for that recommendation.

Until now, the CDC has recommended the vaccine only for people in specific "high-risk" groups (such as children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems) and those who may come in contact with high-risk individuals (such as doctors and nurses). If you were, say, 30 and healthy and didn't come into contact with kids, you could be vaccinated but weren't urged to do so.

This year, however, the CDC is urging everyone over the age of 6 months to be vaccinated (with exceptions for people who may be allergic to the vaccine or have had a bad reaction to one in the past).

The change comes, in part, because the H1N1 flu virus hit younger adults particularly hard last year, and that group was unlikely to be vaccinated against flu in previous years. Also, it was sometimes difficult for people to know if they fell into a high-risk group; it's easier just to tell everyone to get the vaccine.

This year's vaccine has been engineered to protect against the flu strains most likely to be troublesome this season: H1N1, H3N2 (a type of influenza A) and an influenza B strain. Even if people were vaccinated against H1N1 and/or last year's seasonal flu, they'll still need to get this year's vaccine.

“In an average year, there are more than 200,000 hospitalizations and more than 35,000 deaths from flu. Many of those would be preventable by simply getting the flu shot,” said David Weber, a medical professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. “Flu shots are far and away the best way for preventing flu.”

Get the latest Science stories in your inbox.