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FACT FINDERS: Flu Vaccine Matching Hurdles

Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 7:26 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Flu shots are available but how effective will they be this year? There was a new hurdle to matching the flu vaccine with the strains that will circulate.

Each year, it is an educated guess as to which strains should be put in the flu shot. And this year Dr. Sean Elliott with Tucson Medical Center says there’s a little less information to help us out with that guess.

”Normally, one can predict what variants of the flu, influenza, are going to be circulating in the United States based on experience in the other hemisphere. So Australia, New Zealand are frequently really helpful saying, ‘OK, we’re having this type of Influenza A and this type of Influenza B so you’ll want to include that in your vaccines.’ We don’t have that experience this time because they also have had a minimal flu season,” said Dr. Elliott.

Dr. Elliott says the minimal flu season is largely because people were masked up. He also says it is critically important everyone gets the flu shot this year. That is because it is expected to be a bad flu season with fewer people wearing masks and we do not want to further overwhelm emergency departments caring for COVID-19 patients.

So, when will we know how good of a match this flu vaccine is? Dr. Elliott says we may not know until after the fact, possibly months into the flu season.

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