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PBS Newshour: What you need to know about this year’s elevated flu threat

December 17, 2014
PBS Newshour last week had a segment about this year’s flu season, which doctors are warning could be more severe than normal. One reason for that is that one of the flu virus strains that is most prevalent is not responding as well as usual to the vaccine.

LJ Tan explains:
…with this upcoming season, we are getting a predominance of H3N2. That means we might have a more severe season. But not only that — we’re also seeing that the H3N2 that we’re seeing is not the strain that’s in the vaccine. So, in other words, the strain has drifted.

So about 58 percent of what is circulating right now is not matching what’s in the vaccine. So you have the H3, you have the drift, and so, therefore, the predictions from the federal government is that it could be a little bit of a rocky ride coming down the pike.

Host Gwen Ifil wondered if that means that getting a flu shot is a waste of time this year:
No, not at all, because, remember, the flu vaccine contains three or four vaccine strains, and so while the H3 may have drifted and we are only getting maybe about half protection, remember, there’s still the other two or three strains that’s in the vaccine that you will still be protected against.

So, absolutely, flu vaccine remains the best way to prevent yourself from getting flu.

Remember, most health insurance plans cover the flu vaccine with no co-pay or out of pocket cost. To find a flu shot clinic near you, visit this tool from