Flu Vaccines Save Lives
As New York City health officials announced Thursday that a child had become the first city resident to die this year of influenza, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report detailing that last year’s flu season was the deadliest “normal” season since the 1970s. According to the CDC, 79,000 peopled died due to the flu during the 2017-2018 flu season, 49 million people were sickened and 960,000 were admitted to hospitals. Of those who died, 183 were children, the highest number since the CDC began tracking pediatric deaths due to flu 14 years ago. The CDC also said it is not a coincidence that the worst flu season in four decades coincided with a steep decline in vaccinations. Last season, 37.1 percent of adults were vaccinated, compared with 43.3 percent the previous year, a decline of more than 14 percent. Compounding the reduced protection caused by the decline in vaccinations is that last year’s flu strain was highly aggressive and rapidly evolving, requiring multiple updates to the vaccine as the season progressed. No vaccine is 100 percent effective because viruses evolve. But, as the CDC noted, if a vaccinated person contracts the flu, its impact will be less severe than on an unprotected person. Clearly, individuals and communities benefit from high vaccination rates. The risks and costs are minimal and the rewards are great. Public health organizations should press vaccinations, and individuals should protect themselves, their families and neighbors.