Just as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had predicted last December, this year’s flu vaccine has failed in its ability to arrest the flu strain causing illnesses to people within the US this winter period.
In fact, its 23% effectiveness has been noted to be the worst performance within the last decade, whereas flu vaccines have been known to traditionally perform at 50% to 60% effectiveness. Since US health officials started tracking the effectiveness of vaccines in recent times, this year’s flu vaccine performance has been the lowest – to the detriment of unvaccinated children and seniors above 65 years of age.
‘‘This is an uncommon year,’’ said Dr. Alicia Fry, a flu vaccine expert at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who advised that people everywhere should still get vaccinated even though this year’s flu vaccine has been found to be only 23% effective – but then, that is sufficient enough to keep you out of hospitals’ beds and harm’s way.
Flu vaccines are reformulated every year to take care of current viral mutations; and top researchers recommend three or four mutated strains to include in the engineering of the vaccines – but in this year’s case, the H3N2 strain mutated faster than scientists could formulate vaccines that can eliminate it. And then, as soon as the strains to be included in a vaccine are approved by February, pharmaceutical companies have enough time to produce the vaccines as flu shots or nasal spray vaccines in enough doses that could cover the country.
This particular strain has caused massive hospitalizations and deaths in several states across the US, and infants as well as the elderly have been most affected by this irregular flu strain. Health experts advise people to isolate themselves as soon as they start feeling under the weather or experiencing flu symptoms and to call the doctor. They are also advised to get vaccinated with the flu shot because it will provide much more coverage than the lack of it.