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Why you shouldn’t skip the flu shot, even if you hear it might not work

Health officials say the flue vaccine covers most – but not all – strains of the flu vaccine that are prevalent this season.
Vaccinations

Iowa health officials said the flu vaccine covers most – but not all – strains of flu circulating in the state this flu season.

Influenzas A(H3N2), A(H1N1) and B were all currently circulating in Iowa, according to a December 4, 2014 statement from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The vaccine is a good match against two of the strains and against half of the third strain.

“It’s just against about half of that third strain, we don’t think the vaccine is going to be as effective as we would have hoped,” IDPH medical director Dr. Patty Quinlisk said in a report from Radio Iowa.

The flu vaccine may not be effective in about half of the A(H3N2) virus this year, the CDC said in an advisory issued to doctors December 3, 2014.

“Because of the detection of these drifted influenza A (H3N2) viruses, this CDC Health Advisory is being issued to re-emphasize the importance of the use of…antiviral medications when indicated for treatment and prevention of influenza, as an adjunct to vaccination,” the CDC advisory said.

Tamiflu and Relenza were the two prescription antiviral medications the CDC recommended as effective to treat or help prevent influenza.

If you aren’t sure it will work, health officials say the flu vaccine is still worth getting.

“(E)ven if vaccine effectiveness is reduced against drifted circulating viruses, the vaccine will protect against non-drifted circulating vaccine viruses,” the CDC advisory said.  “Further, there is evidence to suggest that vaccination may make illness milder and prevent influenza-related complications. Such protection is possible because antibodies created through vaccination with one strain of influenza viruses will often ‘cross-protect’ against different but related strains of influenza viruses.”