NEW YORK — Drug makers and health care professionals are gearing up for the 2018-2019 flu season, with much of the initial activity focused on raising vaccination rates.
While anyone can get the flu, it can be particularly serious for young children, older people, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions, such as asthma, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Getting vaccinated is the best tool available to help protect yourself and suppress the spread of the virus that causes influenza, according to CDC, which recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get vaccinated against the flu each year.
Flu vaccinations prevented some 5.3 million flu-associated illnesses, 2.6 million medical clinic visits and 84,700 hospitalizations during the 2016-2017 flu season, the CDC estimated.
The flu season in the United States typically runs from October to May and peaks between December and February.
“The flu vaccine is the one vaccine that people of almost all ages should receive annually,” said Patrick Desbiens, senior vice president of U.S. vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
GSK announced that it is offering two vaccines this year that enable providers to vaccinate all of their recommended patients age 6 months and older with the same vaccine dose. The drug maker said it began shipping the quadrivalent influenza vaccines to health care providers and pharmacies as soon as it received licensing and lot-release approval from the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
The quadrivalent flu vaccine is designed to protect against four flu viruses: two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses. A and B are the two main types of flu viruses.
“Last year’s flu season was one of the most severe seasons in recent years, with high flu activity across the country and a record number of flu-related hospitalizations,” said Jocelyn Konrad, Rite Aid Corp.’s executive vice president of pharmacy.