The effectiveness of the flu vaccine is a hot topic as this season of influenza has brought with it hospitalizations and untimely deaths.
WCCO’s Good Question asked: why isn’t the flu shot more effective?
“The flu isn’t like mumps or measles; it constantly changes,” explained Michael Osterholm, Ph.D., professor in the School of Public Health. “Vaccine makers try to account for that by predicting which strains will be out there, and matching the vaccine.”
He adds, “We’ve seen years when the match was supposedly very good, and vaccine protection was really bad. We’ve seen years where the match wasn’t very good, and yet vaccine protection was above average.”
A recent study led by Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), found current influenza vaccines offer less protection against seasonal influenza than previously reported.
The study, The Compelling Need for Game Changing Influenza Vaccines from the CIDRAP Comprehensive Influenza Vaccine Initiative (CCIVI), is now the center of much conversation.
Osterholm told Fox 9, even though the current vaccine isn’t perfect, it’s the best we’ve got. “You have a 0% chance of being protected if you don’t get the flu shot. You have a 60% chance of being protected if you get it and you’re a young, healthy adult. I think those are a lot better odds.”
The CCIVI report explained the misperception that current vaccines are highly effective in fighting influenza has become a barrier to creating new, more effective vaccines.
“We urge people to get their flu shot. The present vaccines are the best interventions available for seasonal influenza,” said Osterholm. “However, these vaccines do not offer consistent, high-level protection – especially in individuals at risk of medical complications or those aged older than 65 years. Unfortunately, these are the populations where we need the vaccines to work the best. We need new influenza vaccines that work for everyone, most of the time.”
Click here to watch Dr. Michael Osterholm explain his findings.