Flu vaccine effectiveness pegged at 50 to 70 per cent

By on December 15, 2017
Dr. Perry Kendall, the provincial health officer, rolls up his sleeve and gets his flu shot in this Black Press file photo from November 2015. (Black Press files).


by Dale Bass
Kamloops This Week

This year’s flu vaccine was designed to protect against a strain of influenza that has been reported in the Interior.

But that strain — A/H3N2 — is one that in the past has caused problems for many who contract it, in particular older patients.

Australia, as of mid-November, had recorded 221,853 confirmed cases of flu, with 52 deaths and 1,429 flu-related hospital stays reported.

Last year, there were 27 flu-related deaths and 719 people requiring a hospital stay in Australia.

Dr. Karin Goodison, a medical health officer with Interior Health, said while A/H3N2 is the main strain being reported, there has also been a significant amount of influenza B.

The difference between the two strains is who it can affect — B strains only impact humans while A strains can be found in animals. Influenza B has just two main strains, while A can have many more variations.

Worldwide, the most common virus being reported is also A/H3N2.

Goodison said this year’s vaccine effectiveness is good, ranging between 50 and 70 per cent.

The World Health Organization, which decides what strains to put into the vaccines, said Canada reported an early start to flu season and has had more consultations and influenza-related hospitalizations than expected to date.

A decision on which strains to include must be made about six months before flu season to allow enough time to make the more than 150-million injectable doses required for the U.S. alone.

Historically, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the annual flu vaccine effectiveness has ranged from 10 per cent in 2004 — when there was a widespread outbreak of H5N1 bird flu — to 60 per cent in 2010. Most often, the percentage of effectiveness is somewhere between the mid-40s and mid-50s.

Goodison said the best way to protect against the flu is to get the shot, wash hands frequently every day, particularly after coughing or sneezing, cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and stay home if you are sick.

Flu shots are available through physicians, health clinics and pharmacies.

According to the provincial government’s ImmunizeBC website, there are four such locations in Merritt.

To find a location, go online to immunizebc.ca and click on Find a Clinic.

One Comment

  1. Jan T

    December 16, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Health Canada likes to say the flu shot is 50 to 70% effective, like your headline says. But that is not true.
    They ignore their own data.
    https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/effectiveness-studies.htm This from the CDC shows the flu shot has been 41% effective on average over the last 13 years.
    http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/canada-flu-shot-vaccine-skowronski-h1n1-1.3669427 This shows that flu shot was 48% effective in the 2015/16 season and for the bad season of 2014/2015 was near 0% effective. This also says the flu shot is pretty much always less than 50% effective.
    http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1714916#t=article This study shows the flu shot was 10% effective for the dominant strain in Australia this last season and that it will be the same for us and we are using the same vaccine strains.
    Your article does not tell us that the flu shot will be less than 10% effective the year. We already know the H3N2 will be the dominant strain this season here like it was in Australia.
    Article says there was 52 flu deaths in Australia this season. Lets put that in context. The CDC says 85% of flu deaths are over 65. So 85% of 52 is about 9. So there is 9 flu deaths under 65 in Australia. There population is 24 million. so you have less than a chance in a million of dying of the flu if under 65. and if you go with the 52 straight over all, you have 2 chances in a million of dying. Don’t worry about, Your risk of vaccine injury is higher. The risk/benefit ratio is not in the flu shots favour. Why would you risk a vaccine that barely works.
    Also Google “Serial flu shot problem”.

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