The CDC says flu kills an average 24,000 Americans each year. Year-to-year flu deaths fluctuate and it is very difficult to predict how bad a flu season will be in advance. Over the last 30 years, flu-related deaths in the United States have ranged from about 3,300 to a high of about 49,000.
Immunity provided by the flu vaccine lasts about eight months, so even if you got vaccinated last year, it's important to get this year's vaccine.
Also, there is a new strain of the H3N2 flu virus that has not been included in previous flu shots. This strain has been linked to two recent flu outbreaks in Iowa.
New virus strain means a new vaccine which will benefit all ages. This year’s seasonal flu vaccine provides protection against the H1N1 virus and two other flu strains, so only one vaccine is needed.
Groups that will need two separate doses include children under age 9 receiving their first-ever flu vaccine and children younger than 9 who received their first-ever seasonal flu vaccine last year, but only got one dose, according to guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Flu vaccination was already recommended for 85 percent of the U.S. population but the CDC expanded that to almost everyone based on evidence that vaccination can benefit people of all ages. "We've been moving in that direction for a number of years," CDC spokesman Tom Skinner says. Health officials were also concerned that the 2009 H1N1 virus would continue circulating during this flu season and that "a substantial proportion of young adults might remain susceptible to infection," according to the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Exceptions include people with egg allergies, people who have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccine in the past and infants younger than six months.
The flu vaccine is made using chicken eggs. There is no need to be concerned about salmonella in the vaccine after the massive egg recall. Eggs used for vaccine production don't come from the same farms as eggs used for food and the eggs are rigorously inspected for pathogens.