There have now been more than 14,000 confirmed diagnoses of the flu this year in New Jersey. In spite of that large number, doctors still believe the flu vaccine has been somewhat effective at preventing that number from being even higher.

Robert Pedowitz, medical director for family practice at CentraState, called this flu season "very aggressive," and said it is "probably one of the worst on record at least in the last 10 years."

Pedowtiz said it is better to get vaccinated, and vaccinated early. Those that have not been vaccinated yet still can as the season is expected to last at least another month.

As in previous years, Pedowitz said most patients receive a quadrivalent vaccine that treats two strains of influenza A and two strains of influenza B. He said one strain of the A form of the virus has been particularly aggressive. While this year's version of the vaccine was designed to target this particular strain, Pedowitz said there is reason to believe the strain mutated, which is contributing to more people getting sick.

"The vaccine, though it's correctly treating this strain, or preventing the strain from causing the flu in individuals who get the vaccine, it may not be as effective this particular year," he said. "Researchers are right now looking at what happened and how do we prevent that or fix that for future years."

While the ideal time to get vaccinated is usually as early as September, Pedowitz said people can still get the vaccine now. He said people are also helped if they get the shot every year, or at least most years, as it helps the body to build up immunity. The doctor said that is the "best strategy to preventing the flu or flu outbreaks."

The state Department of Health's latest numbers on the flu has more than 14,000 confirmed cases of flu across the state. Because that number is a snapshot, the actual number of people have been sick with the flu is many times larger.

While there have been only two confirmed deaths, Pedowitz said the number of infections alone should motivate people to get vaccinated.

"I think the public should know it's not that the flu shot isn't working, it's that sometimes the flu shot doesn't work as well as we would like it to be working."

With the vaccine treating four strains of virus simultaneously, Pedowitz said the shot "is working. Otherwise, we would see a lot more cases of the flu than we already have."

As the body gets acclimated to the vaccine, Pedowtiz said they might feel some symptoms but that is a sign the vaccine is working.

"You can't at all get the flu or any flu-like illness from the vaccine. The vaccine is safe," he said. "Anyone that has questions should talk to a medical provider about whether they should or shouldn't get it."

Vaccines can be found in these locations as well:

Bergen County
• Feb. 15: 4- 8 p.m.
Free vaccine for adults 18 years and older. Bergen County Administration Building, One Bergen County Plaza, Multi-Purpose Room, 1st Floor Hackensack, NJ

Gloucester County
• Feb. 21: 9 a.m.-11 a.m.
• Feb. 26: 2 p.m. -4 p.m.
• March 8: 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
• March 1: 2-4 p.m.
• March 19: 1-3 p.m.
• March 28: 9-11a.m.
Address: Health Department 204 E. Holly Avenue Sewell, NJ 08080

Monmouth County
• Feb. 15: 2-5 p.m.
Children aged 6 months through 17 years. County Health Office on Route 9 in Freehold.

Ocean County
Free if you’re enrolled in Medicare Part B, if not the cost in $20

OCHD Northern Site, 1771 Madison Avenue, Lakewood
• March 9: 1:30-3:30 p.m.
• March 21: 5-7 p.m.

OCHD Southern Site, 333 Haywood Road, Stafford
• Feb. 2-Feb. 18: 4- 6 p.m.
• March 8: 4- 6 p.m.
• March 2: 4-6 p.m.

OCHD Main Site, 175 Sunset Avenue, Toms River
• Feb. 15: 1- 3p.m.
• March 1: 1- 3p.m.
• March 5: 4- 7p.m.
• March 1: & March 18: 9 a.m. -1 p.m.
• March 15: 1-3p.m.
• March 19: 4- 7p.m.

Toms River High School North, 1245 Old Freehold Road
• Feb. 21: 4- 7p.m.

Somerset County
• Every Tuesday from 9a.m.- 4p.m. at 7920 Crisfield Highway, Westover. Cost is $20.

Sussex County
• Mondays and Thursdays 2p.m.-4p.m. through February. 201 Wheatsworth Road Hamburg, NJ. Free for residents 65 years and older with Medicare B, $20 cash or check for everyone else.

Warren County
• Every weekday (besides Wednesday) by appointment. 8:30 AM- 3:30 PM. Cost is $20 with Traditional Medicare, Part B Card. 700 Oxford Road, Oxford NJ.

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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com

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