Too soon for the flu?
Experts agree that influenza can be deadly and getting vaccinated is critical. But when?
Each year a flu vaccine is designed by a experts who try to identify the strains most likely to spread across the U.S. (Chuck Berman, Chicago Tribune)
That's good news, Parada said, but rising demand for flu vaccine has increased pressure on pharmaceutical companies to produce more of the vaccine earlier. Almost 73 million doses of vaccine had been distributed in the U.S. as of Sept. 7, according to the CDC.
The early start to vaccine campaigns in recent years could be linked to the swine flu outbreak that swept across the country in 2009, Parada said. In order to focus on the emerging outbreak, many vaccine manufacturers fast tracked production of the seasonal flu shots in the spring of that year.
Supply of the seasonal flu formula dwindled, and health professionals were forced to ration available vaccine to those most at risk.
"The CDC has been working very hard to make sure we get good (flu vaccine) production early (and) in large amounts; they have been very successful at that," Parada said.
"The flip side is now there is a lot of vaccine early in the season and people who have it want to sell it. Then you get a race to start early, which is absurd."
Many providers begin marketing the flu shot soon after shipments of the vaccine arrive.
Walgreens pharmacies around the country have been offering the vaccine since Aug. 6, said spokesman Robert Elfinger.
"Over the years, it has gotten earlier. (This year) we are able to make it available for back-to-school shopping," Elfinger said Wednesday from the company's Deerfield headquarters.
And a new swine flu strain has infected more than 300 people in the U.S. this year, according to the CDC. About 80 percent of those infected were reported in Ohio and Indiana. Only four people in Illinois have confirmed infections.
"One of the things that is driving people to get vaccinated (for the seasonal flu) earlier this year is the buzz about this swine flu outbreak," Parada said.
He added that people should be aware that the seasonal flu vaccine will not protect them from the new mutated H1N1 virus. Most victims have been farmworkers or other people exposed to pigs, and most experts say the new H1N1 virus will "burn itself out."
Parada and CDC sources agree that what is most important is that people get vaccinated for the seasonal flu, whether early, late, or hopefully right on time.