The American Academy of Pediatrics released a new recommendation on Tuesday, September 3 that all children ages 6 months or older should be immunized against influenza as soon as the vaccine is available.
Flu season is right around the corner, and as summer comes to an end and the temperature drops, influenza, a very serious disease can lead to hospitalization and worse if not treated or guarded against.
Each year between 3,000 and 49,000 people in the United States and approximately 500,000 worldwide die from the flu and its complications, and getting a flu vaccination each year remains the best way to protect against the seasonal flu and lessen the chance of spreading the infection.
Flu viruses are incessantly monitored to identify those strains most likely to cause human illness. Once one is identified it takes at least six months to produce an influenza vaccine. Once late February rolls around public health officials must select a few virus strains expected to be circulating widely the following season, this is where the decision for the vaccines is made.
There are two dozen vaccine-preventable diseases: measles, mumps, polio, smallpox and hepatitis. Seasonal influenza is the only one for which a new vaccine is recommended every year, a problem for researchers and the public alike.
A so-called universal influenza vaccine is in the works by scientists, if this vaccine came about it would be a game changer in keeping our families protected.
Traditional flu vaccines target regions in the head of a protein found on the surface of the virus, regions readily seen by the immune system but prone to mutations as the viruses carelessly reproduce themselves. In contrast, the new vaccine may target more stable regions of the influenza protein found in the stem, somewhat hidden from the immune system by other molecules nearby, that rarely vary from virus to virus.
A universal flu vaccine would do more great things than protect us from the seasonal flu, it would modernize the prevention strategy, and lower health care costs which everyone is in favor of.
Much work needs to be done before this goal is reached, and in the meantime, getting an annual flu shot in its current form is still the best protection for us all.