At the end of last week, reports issued by the CDC claimed that this year’s flu shot has been reducing the risk of infections in the US by about 48%. But the season still isn’t over so many doctors are scaring their patients and reminding them to RUN, not walk, for a shot…before it’s too late.
This season, the predominant strain is influenza A (H3N2) and the “estimated effectiveness” of the vaccine is 43% but because the “estimated effectiveness” against the influenza B virus was 73%, the overall score is 48%. While that might not seem like a lot during the 2014-2015 season, the effectiveness was only 19%. And yes, even at only 19%, doctors and the CDC were still recommending the shot.
- 7.9% were younger than 4 years old,
- 30.4% were between 5 and 24 years old,
- 30.3% were between 25 and 64 years old,
- and 31.5% were 65 or older.
Fifty-one of the 54 US states and territories are reported to be experiencing elevated levels of flu and flu-like illnesses and 20 pediatric deaths have been reported. In fact, the CDC is recommending that unvaccinated people who are 6 months old or older get a shot this year. Why? Because Brendan Flannery, lead investigator for the US Flu Vaccine Effectiveness Network, claims that, “Right now, it looks on track to be a moderately severe H3N2 season. It seems like it’s similar to the 2012-2013 season, which was a season with millions of cases and about 60,000 hospitalizations and 2,000 deaths.”
(Does it seem like he’s trying to scare people? Remember H1N1 that was supposed to infect everyone?)
Picking the strain
“The flu shot is an inactivated influenza vaccine. Each February, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group of medical and public health experts, makes the final decision about which virus strains will go into vaccines, which will be sold beginning in September to protect people during the forthcoming flu season.
The committee’s decision is based on information from more than 100 countries, where influenza-monitoring centers conduct surveillance of circulating viruses. The committee members consider which viruses are making people sick, where those viruses are spreading and how well the previous season’s vaccine protects against them.
After the committee selects the strains to be used for the vaccine, manufacturers will produce trivalent formulations with three strains and quadrivalent formulations with four strains for the upcoming season; both trivalent and quadrivalent shots are equally recommended, according to Flannery.”