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This Year's Flu Season: Good News and Bad News

flu shotThe good news is that getting a flu shot will be easier than it was last year when the swine flu pandemic peaked before the vaccine was widely available.

About 30 million doses are already available through doctors’ offices, pharmacies and other retailers. That’s the first of a total of 165 million flu vaccine doses which are being shipped to the United States, according to USA Today.

The even better news it that thanks to the federal Affordable Care Act, this is the first time that Medicare and private health insurance companies are offering flu vaccine without co-pays or deductibles. Under the federal Vaccines for Children program, even uninsured children are covered for flu shots.

So you ready for the bad news?

Three strains of flu have begun to spread in the USA, including H1N1 (swine flu) as well as H3N2, which sounds even more dangerous. About 60% of Americans are said to be susceptible to swine flu (that number includes pretty much everyone who didn’t get it last year and wasn’t vaccinated against it).

Although flu variety H3N2 hasn’t hit the U.S. in large numbers yet, it is often linked to serious disease and death. Luckily, this year’s seasonal flu vaccine protects against H3N2.

“We are recommending that when you see vaccine, get vaccinated,” said Ann Schuchat, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “You don’t have to worry, if you get vaccinated now, that you’ll need another shot in January.”

USA Today tells the story of Navy surgeon Henry Lin of Bethesda, Md., who became a crusader for flu shots after his 7-year-old son Trevor died of swine flu last year when the flu vaccine was in short supply. Apparently, since Trevor had been otherwise healthy, the emergency room doctors didn’t prescribe Tamiflu, which they reserved for patients deemed high-risk.

I didn’t get vaccinated last year and neither did my kids, but after reading Lin’s story, I think I’ll play it safe and get the vaccine for all of us.

What about you? Do you plan to get the flu shot this year for you and your kids?

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Photo: wikimedia/United States Department of Health and Human Services

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