This year’s flu shot was 36 percent effective: US estimate
By Agence France-Presse
This season’s flu shot was 36 percent effective overall, far less than the 2016-2017 vaccine but still worth getting because it can help ward off serious complications, US health officials said Thursday.
The interim report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was released in the final weeks of the current flu season, which has been the most active since the swine flu pandemic of 2009.
Last season’s flu vaccine was apparently better — 48 percent effective overall and 32 percent effective in the United States against the most common (A)H3N2 strain.
This season, the vaccine was just 25 percent effective against A(H3N2), the predominant strain of flu in circulation, the CDC report said.
This “indicates that vaccination provided some protection, in contrast to recently reported, nonsignificant interim estimates of 17 percent from Canada and 10 percent from Australia,” said the report.
The CDC stressed that despite the low numbers, the vaccine prevented many flu-related hospitalizations among children aged six months to eight years.
“The risk for A(H3N2) associated medically-attended influenza illness was reduced by more than half (59 percent) among vaccinated children,” said the report.
Also, the vaccine “provided substantial protection” against circulating A(H1N1)viruses, which were less common than H3N2 this year.
The shot was 67 percent effective against H1N1.
“CDC continues to recommend influenza vaccination while influenza viruses are circulating in the community; several more weeks of influenza activity are likely,” it said.
The flu is typically a mild illness, but can turn deadly and lead to life-threatening complications like pneumonia.
The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies from year to year, and has ranged from 10-60 percent over the past 12 years, according to emergency room doctor Robert Glatter of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.
Still, he said, it is worth getting until a better, universal vaccine can be made.
“It’s still prudent to get the vaccine because the severity of your illness will be reduced,” Glatter said.
The CDC recommends the flu vaccine for most people over six months of age.
Research has shown that a mutation in the H3N2 strain of the virus, which did not show up in the mass-produced vaccine that is grown using eggs, is the reason why the vaccine offered little protection last season.
According to Brahim Ardolic, chair of the department of emergency medicine at Staten Island University Hospital, the odds are still better for those who get vaccinated.
“If you got the flu shot, you were a third less likely to get the flu. This is a great reason to get the flu shot early.” (AFP)