Getting your flu shot seems exceedingly simple. But the path to its existence is anything but: Your vaccine may go through several countries and a chicken egg before it gets to your arm, all in a six-month race to be ready for influenza season.
That time of year is upon us, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said manufacturers are distributing more flu vaccine in the U.S. than ever: a projected 171 million to 179 million doses this year.
That's up from 147.8 million distributed last year, amounting to $1.61 billion in revenue, according to industry researcher IMS Health. Globally, manufacturer CSL estimates the market for influenza vaccines at $4 billion.
"Flu is unpredictable, but you can predict that the single-best thing you can do to protect yourself is to get a flu vaccine," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said at a news conference last month.
The market's been growing along with a public health push for vaccination; rates in the U.S. have been steadily rising, and five years ago the CDC expanded its recommendation for the flu shot to everyone in the U.S. older than 6 months.
That's even as the vaccine proves to be just about 50 to 60 percent effective most years; still, public health experts emphasize flu can be a serious illness, and the vaccine cuts down on infections and complications. Each year, millions of people get flu, more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized with complications, and the virus kills thousands of people.