Health officials expect to avoid a repeat of last winter, when immunizations weren't a good match for a surprise strain. Manufacturers project that more than 170 million doses of influenza vaccine will be available this season. Options range from traditional shots, a nasal spray, a high-dose version for seniors and even a needle-free injection for the squeamish.
Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself against the flu. About 40 million doses have been used already. The flu vaccine is 50% to 60% effective. Last year's flu season was especially rough, as a harsh new Type A strain came on the scene after vaccine doses already were manufactured, leaving them less effective than usual.
Flu-related hospitalizations of seniors were the highest recorded in the decade that CDC has counted. This year's vaccine contains protection against that bug and other strains that specialists consider most likely to spread. Still, flu viruses are tricky, and there's no guarantee another surprise won't show up.
Fewer than half of Americans get an annual flu immunization, even though the CDC says, on average, flu kills about 24,000 people a year in the U.S.
New CDC data shows vaccination rates last year were highest for children ages 6 months to 23 months—at 75%, the only age group to meet public health goals.
For adults over 65 and children ages 2 to 4—about two-thirds of each group got vaccinated.
Least likely to be vaccinated were adults ages 18 to 49.
Even the healthy kids or adults can benefit from flu vaccine, not only to ward off their own illness but also to keep from spreading it to others