News Dedicated to a Healthy Workplace October 2012
Q&A: Seasonal Flu Vaccine

What sort of flu season is expected this year? 
Flu seasons are unpredictable in a number of ways. Although epidemics of flu happen every year, the timing, severity and length of the epidemic depends on many factors, including what influenza viruses are spreading, whether they match the viruses in the vaccine and how many people get the vaccine. 

When will flu activity begin and when will it peak? 
The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May. The 2011-2012 season began late and was relatively mild compared with previous seasons. It is not possible to predict how mild or severe the 2012-2013 season will be. 

Will new flu viruses circulate this season? 
Flu viruses are constantly changing so it's not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year. 

What kind of vaccines will be available in the United States for 2012-2013? 
A number of different manufacturers produce trivalent (three component) influenza vaccines for the U.S. market, including intramuscular, intradermal and nasal spray vaccines. Some manufacturers are planning to produce a quadrivalent (four component) vaccine in the future. 

How much vaccine will be available during 2012-2013? 
For the 2012-2013 season, manufacturers have projected that they will produce between 146 million and 149 million doses of flu vaccine. During 2011-2012, 132.8 million doses of flu vaccine were distributed in the United States. 

What flu viruses does the vaccine protect against? 
Flu vaccines are designed to protect against three influenza viruses that experts predict will be the most common during the upcoming season. Three kinds of influenza viruses commonly circulate among people today: influenza B viruses, influenza A (H1N1) viruses and influenza A (H3N2) viruses. Each year, one flu virus of each kind is used to produce seasonal influenza vaccine. 
The 2012-2013 influenza vaccine is made from the following three viruses:

  • an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
  • an A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus
  • a B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus (from the B/Yamagata lineage of viruses)

While the H1N1 virus is the same as the 2011-2012 recommendation, the recommended influenza H3N2 and B vaccine viruses are different from those recommended for the Northern Hemisphere for the 2011-2012 influenza vaccine. 

Who should get vaccinated this season? 
Everyone who is at least six months of age should get a flu vaccine this season. It’s especially important for the following people to get vaccinated:

  • People who are at high risk of developing serious complications like pneumonia if they get sick with the flu
  • People who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease
  • Pregnant women
  • People 65 years and older
  • People who live with or care for others who are high risk of developing serious complications including household contacts and caregivers of people with certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease

To learn more about influenza or flu vaccines, check out theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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