Flu vaccine may be only 10 percent effective this year, experts say

"That means that the flu vaccine you received last year may be different than the one created this year".

At the core of vaccine creation lies hemagglutinin, a protein on influenza viruses that allows flu to penetrate cells. As the season continues the state could have more flu-related fatalities.

In the hopes of curbing this year's outbreak, health officials are urging people to wash their hands thoroughly and regularly, use hand sanitizer, cover their coughs and sneezes, stay home when they're sick and talk to their health care provider if they think they have the flu.

Martin Hirsch, an infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Infectious Diseases, told USA Today that while 10 percent seems low, "flu vaccines are usually only about 40 percent to 60 percent effective in the best of years".

Past year in Canada and the US, the vaccine was found to be only 35 per cent effective in preventing cases of H3N2 influenza, she said. In Australia, where winter flu season occurs during the Northern Hemisphere's summertime, health officials saw quite a bit of flu cases caused by the H3N2 strain-a strain typically associated with more hospitalizations and more deaths.

Ninety percent of USA states report some type of local, regional or widespread flu activity, the Chicago Tribune reported, citing the CDC.

Doctors add that even if the vaccine is only 10% effective, it's still important to get one.

A pharmacist at the Wal-Greens on Wilson Street in Brewer prepares to inject a patient with the flu vaccine.

To find out where to get a flu shot the Florida Department of Health suggests you contact your doctor or your local county health department.

While in the past years the flu season started in February, this year the number of people hospitalized due to suffering influenza symptoms has increased. Everyone age 6 months and older is recommended to get a vaccination.

Despite those misgivings, she encourages the elderly and those with underlying heart and lung conditions or with suppressed immune systems, who are vulnerable to influenza and its complications, to get their shot to obtain "all the protection you can get".

Some infectious disease researchers are blaming the outdated methods for cultivating flu vaccines.

Mendez said "it's definitely not too late" - it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective, so now is a good time for people who to plan on traveling this holiday season to get vaccinated, she said.

  • Sylvester Abbott