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Fighting the flu: Shot clinics, local researchers work for better outcomes

MADISON (WKOW) — October is the start of flu season, and clinics and pharmacies across the country are giving out vaccines to protect people.

Hy-Vee staff members bring immunization clinics straight to local businesses throughout fall, to help get more people vaccinated.

“There’s a good portion of people who maybe would be too busy, or maybe they wouldn’t think about it,” said pharmacist Staci Rieder. “We definitely help get the word out about getting vaccinated and make it convenient by coming to them. You can walk into work and leave vaccinated. So what could be better?”

But even the flu shot doesn’t always stave off the deadly illness. At best, it’s only 60-percent effective because it isn’t a perfect match to the strain of influenza that ends up spreading.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found a 47 percent efficacy of last season’s vaccine. More than 61,000 people died during the 2018-2019 season.

“We know that we can do better. We know we can have a better flu vaccine, we can save lives,” said Paul Radspinner, founder and CEO of Madison-based FluGen.

FluGen, which launched out of UW-Madison research, is working to improve the efficacy rate, by creating a universal flu vaccine.

“It not only protects you against the current flu, but also could protect you against other strains of the flu. So when the flu is a mismatch, currently, the vaccine doesn’t work very well. We think ours will work much better,” Radspinner told 27 News.

The team has been working for nearly a decade on this effort and recently wrapped up the first phase of clinical trials. Next comes more trials and more testing. It could still be five years before it’s available.

Meanwhile, experts say you should continue getting the vaccine every season.

“Get your flu shot no matter what, even if you hear that the strain may be mutating,” Radspinner said. “Some protection is better than no protection.”

The CDC doesn’t yet know the efficacy of this season’s vaccine, but it’s been updated to better match expected viruses.

Experts say October is the best time to get the shot, but you can still be vaccinated throughout the winter. Check with your doctor’s office or stop in at the pharmacy.

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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