In late September, the FDA officially announced the arrival of the 2018-19 flu season. Since 2017 saw the highest number of flu-related deaths in 40 years (around 80,000), many people are concerned about the efficacy of this year’s vaccine. Although signs look promising, it’s hard to predict whether newer strains of influenza will respond positively as the season continues.
“One of the challenges in fighting flu is that the viruses can change their genetic make-up rapidly — not only between flu seasons, but also during the course of a single season,” reported FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “As a result, the seasonal influenza vaccine needs to be evaluated annually to see whether its composition needs to be adjusted.”
Scientists believe that may have been the cause of so many flu-related illnesses and deaths last year — a mutation of the influenza virus that wasn’t caught in time. Those who received the flu shot in 2017 still developed antibodies to ward off the virus, but due to the minute changes it had already undergone, those antibodies weren’t enough of a match to conquer the mutated virus.
However, Gottleib is insistent that we have learned from our mistakes and, as a result, have “improved our scientific methods to reduce the odds that it happens again.” In the end, that’s really what science is all about: rolling with the punches and adapting as they change. With vaccines being stored in biomedical refrigerators and laboratory freezers all across the country, meaning that access to the vital vaccine has greatly increased.
It should be noted that vaccines prevent an average of 2.5 million unnecessary deaths every year. Viruses may have the ability to adapt and evolve, but so does medicine; the very best thing you can do to protect yourself this flu season is to get inoculated. Pharmacies are equipped with medical grade refrigerators and pharmaceutical freezers, and doctor’s offices possess biomedical refrigerators and pharmacy grade freezers, so you have plenty of options to turn to. Don’t let doubt or laziness be the reason you catch — and spread — the flu this year.