Despite today’s U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating a milder flu season thus far, Richard Webby, Ph.D., a member of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Infectious Diseases Department, warned Americans that it is still very early in the influenza season and last year’s deadly flu season also showed unremarkable number of infections during this same time period.
“At this point the number of infections are low and dominated by the H1N1 virus, a different virus than the one which caused significant problems last season,” said Dr. Webby, one of a select group of scientists responsible for determining the composition of flu vaccines each year. “However, this latest data cannot be mistaken for an all clear signal to let our guard down. It is critical the public understands last year’s deadly flu season also showed unremarkable infection rates during this same time period. Peak season has not yet happened and we continue to strongly encourage all Americans to receive the flu vaccine as soon as possible.”
A new report released this week by NORC at the University of Chicago showed that “41 percent of Americans do not intend to get the flu shot this season.” The report highlighted top reason including “lack of confidence in efficacy of vaccine, and concern about side effects from the vaccine.”
“The vaccine is not perfect, but it remains an extremely effective and life-saving public health tool,” remarked Dr. Webby. “The flu vaccine is the number one way to protect yourself and it is the best, safest defense we have against a virus that kills and sickens too many of us each year. We all must do our part to protect ourselves and our neighbors, while looking out for the most vulnerable members of our society – and that begins by getting the flu shot.”
Webby recently penned a guest column in FoxNews.com encouraging the public to get a flu shot regardless of health status, writing, “The more people who get the flu shot, the less chance the virus can spread while protecting more people.”
Many pediatric patients at St. Jude are at a greater risk of getting sick from influenza (flu) and other viral infections because of their diseases and treatments. Therefore, helping to disseminate lifesaving educational information about flu prevention techniques is of paramount importance to the St. Jude Infectious Diseases Department. November through February are peak flu months, and last year’s flu season was one of the deadliest in history.