By Dr. Anthony Policastro

We have reached the time of year when flu shots are given. Most people think that all flu shots are the same. That is not true. The components of flu shots change every year.

There are many different strains of flu. Each year the scientific community looks at the prevailing strains and provides a vaccine that contains those strains.

Most of the time they are accurate. That means that people receiving the flu vaccine will be protected. Sometimes other strains pop up unexpectedly. That means the flu vaccine will not be helpful if someone is exposed to that new strain.

That is one of the reasons that some people will argue that they got the flu shot but got the flu anyway. Another reason is that there are other illnesses that can mimic the flu in terms of symptoms. If someone gets one of those illnesses, they again may think they got the flu even though they received the vaccine.

This year there are four different strains contained in the flu vaccine. There are two Type A influenza viruses: H1N1, H3N2. There are two Type B viruses: B/Victoria lineage and B/Yamagata lineage.

As of Sept. 10, there were nine flu infections found in the U.S. Three were H1N1. Three were H3N2. The other three were H1N2. The H1N2 is not included in this year’s vaccine. So if that one becomes more prominent, the vaccine will not offer much protection.

Right now the most common flu virus being seen worldwide is the B/Victoria lineage. The B/Yamagata has not been detected anywhere in the world since April. Therefore, it may not be relevant this flu season.

As with COVID-19, the people most susceptible to having severe flu infections are those who are older or who have underlying conditions. That is one of the reasons that older individuals receive a high dose vaccine.

Usually about 38 percent of eligible individuals choose to get the vaccine. For that reason there is no herd immunity present.

Last year the flu season was not very prominent. A lot of that had to do with COVID-19 precautions. The types of behavior that protects against COVID-19 infections also protect against flu infections. Therefore, we actually used the correct approach to cut down on flu transmission.

Perhaps now that we are more educated about vaccines and hygienic procedures to stop virus transmission, we might again have a better flu season. Hopefully, we have put the correct viral strains in this year’s vaccine.

COVID update- The number of new cases nationally dropped from 686,000 to 588,000. In Sussex County the number of new cases appeared to drop from 832 to 578. However, updated figures for today are the same as they were yesterday so there might be a reporting error.

A booster dose of Moderna was recommended last week by an FDA panel. The booster dose was to be half of the original Moderna dose. It would also be only for high risk individuals. Not everyone who got the first two doses will be eligible for the booster dose. The FDA decision on that is scheduled for Oct. 20.

A panel also looked at the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. They indicated that it was likely that Johnson and Johnson vaccine was always meant to be a two dose regimen. So they recommended a second dose of that as well.

For that reason it is likely that everyone who received one dose of the vaccine will be eligible for the second. It will not just be high risk individuals. The FDA decision on that is due on Oct. 21.

Thus by the time the Star is published those two decisions are likely to have both been made by the FDA.

The evaluation of Moderna vaccine for the 12-17 year age group is currently on hold. They are reviewing the data about the risk of myocarditis in that age group.

Social media always claims to have all the answers. One of the things making the rounds is that the new Merck drug for COVID-19 molnupiravir is not new at all. Social media is saying that it is nothing more than ivermectin repackaged to make money for the drug company.

The chemical formula for molnupiravir is 13 carbon atoms, 19 hydrogen atoms, seven oxygen atoms and three nitrogen atoms.

The chemical formula for ivermectin is 48 carbon atoms, 74 hydrogen atoms and 14 oxygen atoms. It has more than three times as many carbon atoms. It has almost four times as many hydrogen items. It has twice as many oxygen items. The ratio of the three substances is nowhere close. It also has no nitrogen. They clearly are not at all related.