By Stephanie Stahl

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released positive grades on this season’s flu vaccine. New estimates from the CDC suggest this season’s vaccine has been effective at preventing about half the number of flu-related doctor visits.

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This season’s flu shots seem to be working pretty well.

That’s according to CDC estimates that say the vaccine has reduced the risk of going to the doctor for flu-related illness by 47 percent overall this season.

The effectiveness is even higher among children between the ages of 6 months old and 17 years old, reducing doctor visits by 61 percent.

“Numbers can change between now and at the end of the season,” said the CDC’s Brendan Flannery. “The important thing is the vaccine is providing some protection against the viruses that are circling.”

The CDC says H1N1 is the predominant strain of the virus so far this season nationwide, although H3N2 is the primary strain in the Southeast.

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Even though flu activity is lower than it was at this point last year, it’s still responsible for somewhere between 155,000 and 186,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 to 16,000 deaths.

“That puts it on track to be a season of a substantial number of deaths, it’s likely to rise. We also see 28 pediatric death so far this season. That’s also unfortunately likely to rise.”

Health officials add that after a slow start, flu activity has been picking up in the past few weeks and is now at the highest it’s been all season.

Officials stress if you haven’t received a flu shot yet, there is still time to do so.

Last season, when the predominant strain was H3N2, the CDC estimated 80,000 Americans died of the flu and its complications. That was the deadliest toll from the flu in 40 years.

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This year, fortunately, is nowhere near that.

Stephanie Stahl