Flu Vaccine Only 23% Effective

As the US sits firmly in the middle of peak flu season, a report published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that this season's flu vaccine is only 23% effective at preventing the virus.

As the US sits firmly in the middle of peak flu season, a report published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) found that this season’s flu vaccine is only 23% effective at preventing the virus.

Estimates for the effectiveness of the flu vaccine have ranged from 10% to 60% since the CDC began conducting annual studies in 2004-2005.

“Although influenza vaccines are the best tool for prevention of influenza currently available, more effective vaccines are needed,” the authors wrote.

Approximately 70% of this season’s viruses have drifted from the vaccine virus, which accounts for the reduced vaccine effectiveness. However, even when there are drifted viruses the CDC continues to recommend influenza vaccination because the vaccine still prevents some infections as well as serious complications.

“Physicians should be aware that all hospitalized patients and all outpatients at high risk for serious complications should be treated as soon as possible with one of three available influenza antiviral medications if influenza is suspected, regardless of a patient’s vaccination status and without waiting for confirmatory testing,” Joe Bresee, branch chief in CDC’s Influenza Division, said in a statement. “Healthcare providers should advise patients at high risk to call promptly if they get symptoms of influenza.”

In light of the low effectiveness of the vaccine, additional influenza prevention and treatment measures are important, especially for those high at risk for serious flu complications, according to the authors of the MMWR report. They added that practices that can help decrease the spread of the disease include respiratory hygiene, cough etiquette, social distancing by staying home when ill, and hand washing.

Antiviral medications should be recommended for patients regardless of whether or not they have been vaccinated as the treatment can reduce the duration of the illness and reduce complications. However, while there is no national shortage of antiviral medications