SANDY -- The time for flu vaccinations is just around the corner, but getting the vaccine will be much easier this year than last.
More than 160 million doses of vaccine are expected to be produced this year and are expected to be a good match for the strains circulating, said Anne Schuchat, United States assistant surgeon general at Wednesday's Utah Influenza Summit.
She said production this year is higher because the companies that make flu vaccines have had time to prepare and are not trying to produce two different types.
"Hopefully this means more doses, more places. And hopefully that will translate into more people being protected," Schuchat said.
Vaccinations are being universally recommended for all people older than 6 months, she said. The guidelines were changed in part because health officials believe the benefits outweigh the risks, and because this could bring in people who don't realize they have medical conditions that put them in a high-risk group.
Three strains of influenza are in the vaccine: last season's pandemic H1N1, last season's seasonal strain and H3N2, a strain new to the Northern Hemisphere but expected to be similar to the seasonal flu, she said.
Schuchat said more people got vaccinated at nontraditional venues last year, such as pharmacies and workplaces. She said making the vaccine available in a variety of places helps ensure more people get vaccinated.
Flu in Utah is laying low so far, said David Sundwall, Utah Department of Health executive director.
He said there haven't been any unusual spikes yet but cautioned that predicting what influenza will do is a mistake.
"We can't expect anything but uncertainty," he said. "There's no such thing as a typical influenza year."
Health providers prepare as best they can and deal with the unexpected when it comes along, he said.