Although fall won’t “officially” be here for another few weeks, Labor Day is typically what we collectively consider the end of summer, so it seems appropriate that the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a medical journal published today, is reminding parents of this reality: the time to prepare for flu season is now.
In the current issue of Pediatrics, the AAP is urging parents to get their children immunized as soon as the newest flu vaccine is released. Two vaccines will be released this year — one is trivalent, which means it contains three strains of the flu virus. The second is quadrivalent and contains the same three strains as the trivalent vaccine, with an additional B strain.
The AAP is urging parents to have children over the age of six months immunized early so that once the flu season takes hold, their bodies will be immune to the virus.
The flu vaccine changes every year because the virus itself morphs. Every year a consortium of 93 countries comprising the Global Influenza Surveillance Network (WHO) gathers and isolates the flu virus from their respective countries, then sends them to the WHO Collaborative Center. After intense analysis, the WHO CC makes an educated guess on which three strains will likely wreak the most havoc, worldwide.
If they get it right, the vaccine is 70-90% effective; unfortunately a simple mutation can render it virtually useless. So in addition to getting a flu shot, the CDC recommends certain prevention tactics, such as frequent hand washing and keeping solid surfaces disinfected.