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Flu vaccines do not match main circulating flu strain, researchers say

Published: Dec. 21, 2021 at 2:47 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 21, 2021 at 4:52 PM EST
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(CNN) - Health experts are warning about the risk of catching the flu this winter.

”It’s going to be a bad year for influenza,” Dr. Bill Petri at University of Virginia Health.

In a preliminary study, researchers say one of the main circulating flu viruses has changed and the current vaccines against it no longer match it well.

The flu vaccines for this season are not as effective at beating a particular mutation of the virus in the strain known as H3N2.

While you can still be protected from getting sick if you get the shot, this year’s flu shot may not be as effective at preventing infection from this mutation because the vaccines do not seem to generate the right antibodies against the mutated version circulating.

“I think we’re never going to get 100% match on the strain and the vaccine, but regardless, I think that given what’s going on with COVID, it’s really important to get the influenza vaccine,” Dr. Neha Vyas at Cleveland Clinic said.

Health experts say vaccinations are still vital as flu vaccines protect against four different strains of the flu and they are still likely to prevent severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths even in the years where there are mismatches.

“But even preventing half of influenza saves thousands and thousands of lives every year,” Petri said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu kills anywhere between 12,000 and 52,000 people a year and puts as many as 700,000 people in the hospital.

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