Even a mismatched vaccine is better than no shot at all

Friday, January 17, 2020

If you’ve ever had the flu -- the real flu, influenza -- you know what we’re talking about.

“It feels like you got hit by a truck -- a Mac truck,” is how one victim described it.

Whatever the brand, the viral semi-tractors are rolling through the state this year, killing 14 Nebraskans so far, including at least one child.

“This is a severe flu season and it’s having a significant impact on the health of Nebraskans,” said Dr. Tom Safranek, State Epidemiologist for DHHS. “We expect high levels of flu activity for several more weeks, which means more illness, hospitalizations and deaths.

Vaccinations are always a hit-and-miss affair, thanks to influenza virus’ penchant making sloppy copies of its genetic material. As a result, new strains of flu are appearing all the time, leaving little time for labs to create effective vaccines.

This year’s vaccine is effective for a couple of strains, but four strains are making their way across the United States this year. Officials won’t know just how effective the vaccine was until the flu season is over.

Still, a little protection from the flu is better than none.

“Vaccination continues to play a critical role, especially for those at high risk of flu-related complications,” Safranek said. “Antiviral medication for people who have the flu is equally important and so are preventive measures like washing your hands, covering your cough and staying home if you’re sick.”

It’s not too late to be vaccinated, especially if you’re in one of the high-risk groups:

Young children

Adults 65 years of age or older

Pregnant women

People with chronic lung disease (like asthma and COPD), diabetes (type 1 and 2), heart disease, neurologic conditions and certain other long-term health conditions

Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

Contact your pharmacy or healthcare provider for more information.

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