COLUMBIA — Flu vaccines are now available at pharmacies around the city and the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services clinic.
This year's vaccine protects against three strains:
- A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus;
- A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus;
- B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus (from the B/Yamagata lineage of viruses)
The H1N1 virus is the same virus included in the 2011-2012 vaccine, but the H3N2 and B viruses are new to this year's vaccine.
Seasonal flu vaccines are updated each year based on new influenza viruses, how the viruses are spreading and how effective previous vaccines are expected to be against any new viruses, according to the CDC.
Genalee Alexander, public information officer for the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, says they have no way of knowing how severe the season will be because of how unpredictable the flu is, but encourages anyone over the age of six months old to get vaccinated.
"In recent years, we've run the gamut between high degrees of illness and less severe illness," Alexander said.
Last year's flu season was late and mild, setting a new record for the lowest and shortest peak for influenza-like-illness since the monitoring of seasons began. The CDC says this is likely due to a number of factors, including a mild winter, similar viruses circulating from the past two seasons and viruses circulating that the vaccine was designed to combat.
Alexander said flu season can start as early as October, runs through May and typically peaks around January or February. The CDC recommends getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available.
The CDC estimates annual flu-related deaths from the 1976-1977 season to the 2006-2007 season ranged from 3,000 to 49,000.
During the 2011-2012 season, 46 percent of people aged six months and older were vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Children ages six months through 18 years can get vaccinated for free at the Columbia health department clinic. Those over the age of 18 can get the shot for $25 or FluMist for $30.
Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.