THURSDAY, Sept. 17, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- This year's flu vaccine should be a better match than last year's for circulating flu strains, U.S. health officials said Thursday.
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that in most years, the vaccine is 50 to 60 percent effective, meaning that your odds of getting the flu are reduced by as much as 60 percent if you get a flu shot.
Even though this year's vaccine appears to be better matched, "still millions of Americans will get the flu, hundreds of thousands will be hospitalized and thousands will die," Frieden said at a morning media briefing.
Last year's flu season was particularly severe because the predominant strain was an influenza A called H3N2, which was not included in the vaccine.
The vaccine for the 2015-16 season contains the H3N2 strain, Frieden said.
Last year's vaccine was only 13 percent effective against the H3N2 strain. As a result, "more seniors were hospitalized for the flu than ever before."
What's more, 145 children died from the flu, Frieden said, adding the actual number was "probably much higher since many flu deaths aren't reported."
Frieden said recent statistics show that about half of all Americans get vaccinated against the flu each year, including 50 percent of pregnant women. More people, including pregnant women, need to be vaccinated, he said.
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu shot every year.
Frieden said there's an adequate supply of flu vaccine this year. Companies are expected to make 170 million doses of vaccine, of which 40 million have already been distributed.
Adults 18 to 49 years old are the Americans least likely to get a flu shot. Even healthy people should get vaccinated against the flu for two reasons, according to the CDC: to reduce their chances of falling ill, and to help prevent spread of the disease to other people.
For more on the flu, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCE: Sept. 17, 2015, news conference, with Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention