Health Care

Flu Alert: Vaccine only 36% effective yet US officials urge shots

Flu Season

"We must enhance our ability to predict the right strain for the next season, produce a more optimal vaccine, and protect all Americans against all strains of this virus".

Since the flu season started in late August of a year ago, DPH said there have been 1,638 patients who have tested positive through the latest surveillance report that ended on February 10. When considering only protection against H3N2-the most common, and most virulent, strain of influenza-that effectiveness dropped to 25 percent.

But it is working well in kids. A study in Australia suggested the vaccine would be only about 10 percent effective against the H3N2 virus, and a preliminary study from Canada two weeks ago put that figure at 17 percent.

OU health educator Katie Qualls Fay said the immunization period for administering the flu shot is based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information.

On the local front, the Laurel County Health Department has had over 450 cases of influenza reported this season - another huge increase over last year's numbers. She did say in an email, however, that while the district has "certainly had people say they were sick from the flu, fortunately I think it hasn't been as bad as some other areas we've heard about, at least as far as I know".

Even when it doesn't work well, the flu vaccine can save many lives.

"Some protection is better than no protection at all". Already 63 children have died-three-quarters of whom were not vaccinated, according to CDC officials (via CNN). "Unvaccinated people are more likely to get the flu and transmit it to other people because they shed lots of virus into the nasal secretions into the air", he wrote in an email.

Tina Tan, an internist who is state epidemiologist for the New Jersey Department of Health, said that no vaccine is flawless and this one is still helping some people.

Buddy Creech, MD, a pediatrician and a spokesman for the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society in Arlington, VA, said both children and adults with flu can suddenly get worse after seeming to improve, and it can happen very fast.

In the state of Tennessee, eight children and one pregnant woman have passed away due to the flu, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. Barring the rare occurrence of a severe reaction to the vaccination - a 2012 World Health Organization report estimated a rate of one to two severe reactions per 1,000,000 doses - there aren't many downfalls to getting the vaccination besides the small time sacrificed to travel to the doctor. The vaccine's effectiveness may have changed as it is measured at the end of the season.