Last year at this time the new H1N1 flu virus was going gangbusters. Loads of Arizonans were getting sick (especially kids), the vaccine was still in short supply. The county health departments were prioritizing which doctors could get the vaccine. What a difference a year makes. Flu activity across the country is light (so far), and there is plenty of vaccine, making this an excellent time to get a flu vaccine. This season, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated, even if they got a seasonal or 2009 H1N1 vaccine last season. The 2010-2011 flu vaccine has been updated to protect against the three flu viruses that’ll be circulating in the next few months.
The H1N1 influenza strain from last year has been remarkably stable and hasn’t changed very much at all. A report published last week examined the genetic changes in the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus. Some minor changes were detected in Singapore in early 2010, spreading through Australia and New Zealand over their winter (our summer). At this stage, the changes aren’t drastic enough to make this season’s vaccine less effective, but scientists are carefully monitoring the virus as winter approaches in our hemisphere.
FYI- State employees, retirees, spouses and their kids over 4 years old have three options to get a free flu shot through the Benefit Options Flu Shot Program including Worksite Flu Clinics, Family Day Clinics, and Healthwaves Public Clinics.