Flu Vaccine Working Better than Expected, Mostly Among Children

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu kills somewhere between 12,000 and 59,000 people every year. Sure, that is a big range, but flu casualties depend upon various associated factors.  For example, children and elderly are more vulnerable to infection because they have weaker immune systems than healthy adults.

This year, alone, 63 children have already died from influenza infection.

And that is why, of course, it is important to get a flu shot every year.  Even though flu shots are not always as effective as the CDC would hope, it is still the best way to reduce your chance for catching the flu.  Sure enough, the CDC’s first report says that the vaccine is working well this year, so far.

In the report, the CDC notes, “Early estimates indicate that influenza vaccines have reduced the risk of medically attended influenza-related illness by about one-third in vaccinated persons so far this season.”

Of course, it is only about 25 percent effective against the most common strain that is currently in circulation—the H3N2 strain. However, analysts are saying that this year’s vaccine seems to work better in children: improving protection by nearly 60 percent in those 8 and younger.

The CDC report continues, “CDC continues to recommend influenza vaccination because the vaccine can still prevent some infections with currently circulating influenza viruses, which are expected to continue circulating for several weeks.  Even with current vaccine effectiveness estimates, vaccination will still prevent influenza illness, including thousands of hospital­izations and deaths.”

Now, vaccine efficacy is not easy to predict; after all, vaccines are designed to protect against one strain of a particular virus. As such, scientists are not always successful in anticipating which strain will dominate the season.  One way to determine this is to look at previous statistics. That in mind, the CDC also says, “During the 2014–15 season, when vaccine efficacy against medically attended illness caused by any influenza virus was less than 20 percent, vaccination was estimated to prevent 11,000–144,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations and 300–4,000 influenza-associated deaths.”

Finally, the CDC comments on speculation over whey this particular vaccine seems to be so poorly effective:  “Immune responses to vaccination differ by age and previous infection or vaccination history and can affect vaccine protection; higher vaccine efficacy against H3N2 viruses among young children suggests that vaccination might provide better protec­tion against circulating H3N2 viruses to this age group.”

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