Doctors encourage flu vaccine late in season

Doctors encourage flu vaccine late in season
Source: WDAM.

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The deadly flu season may be showing signs of slowing down, slightly. But, local medical professionals are still warning of the risks with the virus.

Last week, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported the second pediatric flu death this season.

Dr. Daniel McCall, IV, a physician leader for Hattiesburg Clinic's Population Health Initiatives, has one strong message --- "you need to get a flu shot, if you haven't already."

"We know as long as there is flu activity out there, you should get vaccinated and that's one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk and reducing the severity of the flu if you do get it," said McCall.

According to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this season's flu vaccine is 36 percent effective overall against influenza and 25 percent effective against the predominant strain (H3) causing most of the infections in Mississippi and the United States.  The estimates of overall flu vaccine effectiveness for children are higher with an estimated 59 percent effectiveness against all types of Influenza in children 6 months to 8 years of age.

"As the flu season progresses, there is a shift from Influenza A to Influenza B, so it's really important still that we take this seriously and make sure everyone gets their flu shot," McCall said.

While the vaccine can vary in how well it works for individuals, McCall said it is still the best way to prevent the flu and can reduce illness, hospitalizations or deaths.  According to the CDC, 74 percent of the reported pediatric flu deaths nationally this year were in unvaccinated children.

"There are certain situations when it's important for a child to get two vaccines and that has to do with their flu vaccine in the past and certain age groups," said McCall.  "So, that would be an important thing to discuss with your pediatrician or family doctor."

The second shot may be necessary if parents have a child under eight-years-old who got vaccinated for the first time this season.  The first dose bolsters the immune system while the second dosage provides protection.

"The good news is, when we look at our data from patients who have been immunized, we've seen lower flu rates," said McCall. "Again, that's the main key message here. Unfortunately, we've had a very active season and with the current strain out there, it tends to be a more severe illness."

McCall said research also shows expectant mothers who are vaccinated can transfer some immunity to the fetus or newborn child for up to six months.  The CDC suggests that's when all individuals receive the universal flu shot.

"The major message out there is flu season is not over and make sure you get immunized," said McCall.  "Unfortunately, there will be another flu season to come. So, getting immunized early is important."

To find a location near you that offers flu shots, click here.