Image Credit: Image Point Fr / Shutterstock By Dr. Ananya Mandal, MDSep 12 2018According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 16 weeks of non-stop flu season last year leading to 700,000 hospitalizations due to influenza as well as pneumonias that occurred as complications.The CDC thus recommends to the general public to get their flu shots well before the flu season begins this year. Ideally all should get their vaccines by the end of October, the federal health officials state.The CDC reports that last year’s flu season was particularly among one of the worst ones. There were hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and around 180 children died from flu. According to the CDC the flu shots or vaccines are not 100 percent protective against the infection but can provide some measure of protection against this illness. Nearly 80 percent of the children who died of flu last year for example, were not vaccinated against flu.The CDC website statement reads, “Influenza is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death.” It adds that millions are affected with this infection that kills thousands every year.The CDC warns that the flu season lasts from October to as late as May the next year with December to February being the peak flu season. This year the CDC officials urge people to start getting their flu shots early before the transmission risk begins. Influenza virus is notorious for its ability to change. This renders the yearly vaccine ineffective against it. Every year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has to choose the strain of the flu virus that would be put into the flu shot. This comes from recommendations from the World Health Organization. Around three or four types of influenza viral strains are targeted with the vaccine. This season’s flu vaccine is already being sold at the drug stores in the recent weeks. This new flu shot targets flu strains of the influenza virus.Related StoriesResearchers identify gene mutations linked to leukemia in children with Down’s syndromeWomen’s greater immune response to flu vaccine declines with ageScripps CHAVD wins $129 million NIH grant to advance new HIV vaccine approachAccording to the CDC recommendations seniors or the elderly are to be given high doses of the vaccine. Other groups that must be vaccinated include pregnant women, people with underlying illnesses and children.CDC states that all babies over the age of six months need to get vaccinated with a traditional flu shot or a nasal spray called FluMist (for children over two years age). This year the spray form of the vaccine is made available again after two years. For the last couple of years this spray mist was not recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices because of its lack of efficacy against the circulating strains of the virus.According to recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics all eligible children should receive the flu shot and the spray mist is to be used only for children who refuse the shots or for paediatricians who have run out of the flu shots. The AAP states that the FluMist is not effective against H1N1 flu strain and is less effective against H3N2 influenza virus.To change this makers AstraZeneca have reformulated the H1N1 portion of the FluMist to improve its efficacy. Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a spokeswoman for the AAP and a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, says that the organization is still not taking chances and all children must still get the shots with spray kept in reserve for special cases only. “It’s not dangerous per se or ineffective, we just don’t have the experience and confidence for the nasal spray to protect against one of the most commonly circulated strains,” she said.