Flu vaccines just 25% effective against worst strain this year, CDC says

You might still get sick with the flu shot

The flu vaccine is doing a poor job protecting older Americans and others against the bug that's causing most illnesses.

The agency announced Thursday that the vaccine is estimated to be 36 percent effective overall and 59 percent effective for children younger than 9. He said that influenza B surpassed influenza A last week for the first time this season. Typically the very old, very young, and immuno-compromised are hit hardest by the flu. "This being a particularly bad flu year, people can still get prevention with a vaccine", Solomon said. All the numbers come with statistical hedging: Because they are based on fairly small groups of patients, the real numbers could be somewhat higher or lower.

"Everybody is encouraged to get the flu vaccine this season, even though the vaccine is not 100 percent effective", she said.

And experts say it's still worth getting a flu shot. "So, while we may be seeing increases in respiratory illnesses in the state, they are not necessarily from influenza". Also, the state's chief medical executive, Eden Wells, M.D., was quoted as saying the flu vaccine is a person's best defense against the flu and will help reduce the severity of symptoms even if people catch the flu despite being vaccinated. Hospital officials are also considering canceling elective surgeries to keep acute care beds open and using a heated tent to triage emergency patients. Of the children who died during those years, less than a third had been vaccinated.

This year's vaccine showed just 25 percent effectiveness against this strain at midseason, according to the CDC.

"Scientists at the FDA, CDC, and NIH are working diligently to fully understand the basis of this finding, so that all of next year's vaccines can provide better protection in preventing the flu", states Gottlieb.

Last season, health officials reported 33 flu-related deaths. This is because baby boomers were not previously exposed to the H3N2 strain as children, it is an irregular strain of flu, and as a whole, baby boomers don't get vaccinated as frequently as other demographics.

When the H3N2 virus is inserted into eggs, tiny changes take place that make the egg-grown virus look less similar to the circulating viruses, affecting the vaccine's ability to target the circulating strain.

"As soon as they have symptoms", said Dr. Fry, "and they suspect they might have the flu, they should call their doctor right away". This year's mix shows better protection against other now circulating strains of influenza, such as H1N1, than it does against H3N2.

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