Flu vaccine shows signs of effectiveness

Fall vaccinations

Fall vaccinations

As kids head back to school and temperatures cool off, respiratory illnesses start circulating.

“Now is a great time to get your flu shot,” said Melissa McMahon, a senior epidemiologist with influenza surveillance at the Minnesota Department of Health.

According to the CDC on Friday, the 2023 Southern Hemisphere seasonal influenza vaccine reduced the risk for hospitalizations by 52%. The Northern Hemisphere vaccine formula targets similar flu viruses.

“The fact that it had good coverage and the viruses that are circulating are the same strain and viruses that we have put in the influenza vaccine are all really good signs that point towards us having a really effective vaccine this year,” said McMahon.

The best time to get the vaccine is September or October, according to McMahon.

“Typically we can say that influenza activity will peak during the winter months so usually around November, December, maybe even January,” she said. “You don’t necessarily want to wait until things have picked up. Things are quiet right now, we’re not seeing a lot of flu in Minnesota, but it does take two weeks for those antibodies to build up and protect you from flu.”

Physicians are also planning for the possibility of a ‘tripledemic’ again this year, as flu, RSV and COVID-19 circulate.

“The predictions are that we will see substantial activity with all three of these diseases,” said Dr. Mark Schleiss, a professor in the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Minnesota Medical School and M Health Fairview. “Not to the level where hospitals will be completely overwhelmed but certainly a level where kids are at risk, families are at risk.”

There are new shots available to protect adults over 60, pregnant people, and infants and babies from RSV. Dr. Schleiss encourages patients to speak with their doctor about the possibility of receiving a vaccine or antibody medicine.

“About 10,000 elderly people die every year from RSV virus,” he said. “RSV is responsible for the bulk of the hospitalizations in most children’s hospitals.”

For more information about the RSV vaccine for older adults, click here.

For more information about the RSV vaccine for pregnant people, click here.

For more information about the antibody treatment for infants and babies, click here.