Flu vaccine: The facts about whether it is working or not

Filed in Gather News Channel by on January 11, 2013 0 Comments

As concerning flu vaccine data was released on Friday, Jan. 11 by the Center for Disease Control, the CDC’s FluView report also reflected that the number of influenza-associated pediatric deaths caused by flu each year has substantially decreased.

Given the news headlines emphasizing the “epidemic” flu proportions in Boston and New York being experienced, the CDC’s report was highly anticipated. But it is also leaving some to wonder if the vaccine is working at all. And why shouldn’t it? As of Friday, 20 children had died due to the current flu viruses impacting the nation according to the CDC’s FluView.

And that is 20 children too many if they took the precaution of getting a flu shot. Right?

In the 2009-2010 flu season as many as 282 child deaths occurred due to flu. That number declined to 122 pediatric deaths as a result of flu during the 2010-2011 influenza season. And it dwindled even more in 2011-2012, when child deaths related to the flu hit an all time low of 34.

Child deaths due to flu conditions may be declining, thankfully, but even 20 deaths are too much for a country that prides itself on preventing the flu with a flu shot. And that brings up the current news reports highlighting the vaccine’s weaknesses this year.

CBS News video footage on Friday with Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University revealed that he expected the CDC’s report on the current vaccine to point out that the flu vaccine for this year was “a good vaccine, but not a perfect vaccine.”

Wait a minute, that sounds almost too cavalier when one is talking about death of a child.

The physician-turned-researcher also points out on his Fox News interview that flu shots cannot contain protection against all possible flu strains, just as this year’s vaccine protected against three strains but missed one strain that was making the rounds. And the Vanderbilt University professional says that respiratory infections also must be considered when trying to gauge the effectiveness of the flu shots given, since the vaccine can’t prevent infection from respiratory-induced symptoms.

Well, that explains it: even the CDC isn’t perfect, and neither is the flu shot that everyone is encouraged to take each year. But at least the medical community is getting better at reducing how many suffer fatally due to the influenza viruses, thankfully. And hopefully the death toll will be zero for next year for those who get the shot to help prevent the flu.

For tips on how not to get the flu according to Dr. Schaffner click here.

Flu Map photo credit: PBS.org

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Open-minded until all the facts are in, and then I'm as stubborn as a mule, and as passionate as a groom on his wedding night.

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