This Year’s Flu Season Basics

If you’ve passed by a major pharmacy lately, you may have noticed that between the back to school blowout and the pool toy clearance sale there is a sign promoting free flu shots. Yep, it’s that time of year again. The 2011-12 flu vaccine was approved in July and is now widely available at medical offices and pharmacies nationwide. Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming flu season:

This year’s vaccine protects against the same viruses as last year’s vaccine.
The three viruses the 2011-12 vaccine protects against are the following:

  • A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus;
  • A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus; and
  • B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.

The viruses remain unchanged from the 2010-11 vaccine because scientists believe they continue to have the greatest potential to infect people around the globe this year.

Last year’s vaccination will NOT protect you again this year.
Even though the 2011-12 flu shot protects against the same viruses as the 2010-11 vaccine, your immunity decreases over time and you’ll need a new dose this fall to develop new antibodies to the viruses.

Everyone over 6 months old should get a flu shot.
In 2010 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a recommendation for a “universal” flu vaccination for anyone in the U.S. over 6 months of age. While getting the vaccine isn’t a requirement, it’s strongly suggested to prevent both yourself and others from getting sick. Pregnant women, children under age 5, anyone over 50, health care workers, those with chronic health conditions, and anyone living or working with them are at the highest risk for developing the flu and should definitely be immunized.

Flu season will be here before you know it.
There’s no definitive moment when annual the flu season begins or ends, but typically it arrives as early as October and can continue through May.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. 
According to the CDC, the best time to get a flu shot is as soon as it’s approved and available. It takes approximately two weeks after vaccination for the antibodies to develop, so waiting until mid-September or later could mean coming in contact with the virus before you’re fully protected against it.

For more information, visit the extensive section on Seasonal Influenza on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website,


Sources: CDC, The Wall Street Journal Health blog

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