The flu vaccine is doing a much less effective job in protecting Americans from getting the flu compared to previous years according preliminary figures released by the Centers for Disease Control (cdc.gov).  The agency tracked about 4,600 children and adult patients in five states and found the vaccine is 36 percent effective overall in preventing a severe case of the flu that would land you in the doctor’s office or emergency room. The researchers examined who got the flu and who among them had been vaccinated.

The flu strain Type A H3N2 has been responsible for many of the flu cases this winter, and the vaccine for this type of flu was only 25 percent effective.  This kind of virus resulted in more severe cases of the flu and is responsible for one of the worst flu seasons in recent years. Experts suggest that the low effectiveness of the vaccine itself has caused one of the worst flu seasons in the United States. “The fact that the vaccine doesn’t work as well as we would like is clearly a contributing factor,” said Dr. Willam Schaffner, a Vanderbuilt University vaccine expert.

The data gathered provides a snapshot of the impact of the flu season while it was peaking throughout the country. The sample used was relatively small and is only preliminary according to officials at the CDC. The numbers may change as more data is gathered and analyzed for the study.

Experts continue to recommend getting the flu shot since it provides some protection and will lessen the severity of the flu symptoms, which will help keep patients out of the hospital and save lives.  There were approximately 56,000 deaths so far this year from the flu.

The flu shot was 67 percent effective in providing protection against another strain of the flu Type A H1N1.  This flu virus was not as pervasive this winter.  The flu vaccine also provided 42 percent effectiveness against the Type B flu virus.

Overall the flu shot was more effective in providing protection to young children than older people.  The vaccine was 51 percent effective for the worst of the flu viruses Type A H3N2, for children aged 6 months to 8 years, but was far less effective in every other age category.   The effectiveness of the vaccine actually fell to a range that was considered ineffective statistically.  During a news conference, the CDC’s acting director Dr. Anne Schuchat said that there needs to be better flu vaccines.  “The vaccines that we have today are not the ones that we’d like to have in 10 years.”  She said the bigger problem is that only 40 percent of Americans get the flu shot each year, and this number continues to fall.

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