Troubling Data out of Australia Suggests Flu Vaccine May Not be Effective

Troubling Data out of Australia Suggests Flu Vaccine May Not be Effectiveā€¯

This season's flu vaccine includes the same H3N2 vaccine component as last season, and most circulating H3N2 viruses that have been tested in the United States this season are still similar to the H3N2 vaccine virus.

And despite some concerns about the overall effectiveness of this year's immunization, it's still the best way to protect yourself, experts agree.

"This is based on the fact that it's the same vaccine essentially that's used in Australia and Australia's flu season is kind of it's at a different time of the year than ours and so what happens there are often times emulated over here", said Dr. Hetal Thakore, Medical Director, Doctors Hospital. In fact, for the week that ended December 2 - the most recent data available - there were 92 flu-related hospitalizations, up significantly from the 19 reported during the same week a year ago.

Most importantly, a flu shot won't ever give you the flu, since the virus that's injected is not live.

Officials from both agencies are urging residents to get their annual flu shot.

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Saul said even if the shot is a poor match for influenza A (H3N2), it will likely work well against other strains. "(Centers for Disease Control), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Nurse-Midwifes and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend flu shots for all women who are or expect to be pregnant during the flu season".

The county says flu vaccinations are also available to uninsured children up to age 18 and children with state-sponsored insurance plans. "If they fail to receive influenza vaccination during pregnancy, postpartum vaccination would also be useful in protecting their infants from the threat of influenza", the authors wrote. They found that prenatal vaccination was 61% effective at preventing influenza in infants, whereas postpartum vaccination was 53% effective. The state DPH reports that 106 of the positive flu cases were type A, with an unspecified subtype and 17 were type A (H3N2). There were 1,379 cases in Kent County and 998 in Sussex County.

The regional classification is one step down from "widespread", which represents the highest level of flu activity. "It's very sporadic - nothing dramatic yet", he said. Maternal vaccination was also associated with a reduction in flu-related hospitalizations in infants.

"We're planning on this being a fairly robust flu season", he said.

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