Health Care

Some Doctors Concerned Flu Vaccine May Only Reduce Risk By 10 Percent

Some Doctors Concerned Flu Vaccine May Only Reduce Risk By 10 Percent

The influenza season in Canada could be shaping up to be a potentially nasty one, with a mixed bag of viruses already circulating in much of the country, say infectious diseases experts.

At the core of vaccine creation lies hemagglutinin, a protein on influenza viruses that allows flu to penetrate cells. Though people just getting their flu shot now may be a bit late for the first wave, they'll still be better prepared for that second round.

"A low level of [vaccine] efficacy means more individuals may be affected by the flu", said Dr. Bruce Hirsch, a specialist in infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, a division of the Northwell Health system.

And because most people who show flu symptoms don't go to the doctor and get tested, state epidemiologist Alfred DeMaria cautioned those numbers represent only a small portion of actual cases.

Makers of the vaccine, though, say the strain of the flu that hit Australia may not be the same one that affects the USA this year. "The seasons in which H3N2 predominates, those are the seasons we see more severe illness, more hospitalizations".

So far this year, 133 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza have been reported in the Bay State, compared to the 51 that had been reported this time last year, according to the Department of Public Health.

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

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Each year since 2010, the flu virus has caused between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses in the USA, the CDC said.

"Dr. Crowe and his team are experts in figuring out which antibodies are important, making them in bulk, determining their biology, and then evaluating their effectiveness in animal models of infection", Creech said.

The flu season is upon us and it's expected to be one of the worst.

Nevertheless, the state is urging everyone to get a flu shot. In a typical year, a flu vaccine has an effectiveness rate between 40 percent and 60 percent, according to the report. Anybody who develops the flu can pass it along to someone at high risk of severe illness, including the elderly and infants younger than 6 months old who are too young to get the vaccine.

Getting the flu vaccine not only protects yourself, but the people around you as well.

Though the accuracy and effectiveness of each year's vaccine varies, this year's seems on track to provide good protection against the Influenza A strains now predominating, health officials say. "And at the end of the day, to know that we might be able to protect the most vulnerable around us with a universal influenza vaccine - that's a reason to get excited about science".


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