Flu Vaccine is 62% Effective, Say Health Officials

  • Share
  • Read Later
Arthur Tilley / Getty Images

Based on early data from flu sufferers, health officials say the current influenza vaccine is 62% effective in reducing symptoms of the disease.

That means that those who are vaccinated are 62% less likely to need to see a doctor for their illness compared to those who are not vaccinated. While that’s a relatively low rate compared to those for childhood vaccines, which hover closer to 90% effectiveness and above, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr. Thomas Frieden said Friday that 62% is “in line with what we expect” with influenza shots, which have to be reformulated every year from best guesses about which virus strains are likely to be circulating during the winter.

“The pick of the strains [in the current vaccine] is as good as it could have been this year,” Frieden told reporters during a teleconference. “Sixty two percent is far less than we wish it would be, but it’s [that] the glass is 62% full, or we have a 62% reduction in the number of people who would be going to the doctor if they hadn’t been vaccinated. So it’s certainly well worth the effort.”

VIDEO: One More Reason to Get the Flu Shot: Your Heart

The estimate, released by the CDC and published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), is based on a preliminary analysis of illness and vaccination rates among 1,155 children and adults over the month of December at five study sites. Because flu season extends through April, that percentage could change, but flu shots in previous seasons have ranged from being 50% to 70% effective in keeping people out of the doctor’s office.

Vaccination, Frieden, said, is still the best protection against influenza, especially since cases will continue to climb, as the wave of illness moves from the south and southeastern parts of the country, where it typically begins each season, westward. Spot shortages of flu vaccines have been reported, but not to the extent that entire regions are without vaccines. “It may be that you have to call a couple of places to find the vaccine but it should be available for you,” Dr. Joseph Bresee, chief of the epidemiology and prevention branch, influenza division at the CDC.

MORE: Dangers of Man-Made Bird Flu Are Exaggerated, Its Creators Say

According to the agency’s latest flu statistics, there are signs that influenza activity is waning in some states; 24 states reported high levels of influenza-like illness among those coming to doctors’ offices and hospitals for treatment, compared to 29 states the previous week. Since September, 20 infants or children have died of influenza-related causes.

While the flu season picked up intensity earlier than usual — in most years, cases peak in February — Frieden said it’s too early to tell whether the current wave is a harbinger of more severe illness to come. But getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against getting sick and potentially spreading illness. If you are sick, health experts urge you to stay home, and to cover your coughs and sneezes and to wash your hands often. Using antiviral medications such as Tamiflu can relieve or shorten symptoms if you take them 48 hours after first feeling sick. “The only thing predictable about the flu is that it’s unpredictable,” said Frieden. “Only time will tell us how long the season lasts, and how moderate or how severe the season will be in the end.”

17 comments
John
John

You know, if you were rating commercial airline effectiveness, 62% is pretty lousy.

AldoEstrada
AldoEstrada

The true cure for the flu is to prevent getting it in the first place through proper nutrition and exercise.  

Andy Pratt
Andy Pratt

One has to wonder what is a guarentee these days.

em4rtz
em4rtz

yea i think i'll let my immune system do the job its suppose to do. 

Chad Revis
Chad Revis

^^ did you even know what was in that flu shot? Just google flu shot ingredients! It's poison!

Shelley Winfield
Shelley Winfield

So not good! I came down with the flu or symptoms 2 days after my flu shot.. Held on to it for 6 weeks.. That was the end of Oct. Coughed forever! Something is back again...cough sneeze runny nose, etc! =/

Nathan Øshuizen
Nathan Øshuizen

Yeahhhh... Any hope for 3rd world countries in this 'flu-race'.......

Barb Butterick
Barb Butterick

Allison Dean- Notice that it says 62% effective up above? They vaccinate for 2-3 strains of flu viruses. There are several more that people can catch that you don't get vaccinated for. Even if the strains match those that are circulating it doesn't mean you can't catch it. It also doesn't mean that you will be one of the 62% that has an easier time of it when you DO catch the flu. It's NOT the same as voting, and it's not the same as getting the chicken pox vaccination. The reason you have to get it every year is because the viruses mutate often enough that the previous vaccines become obsolete and because there are so many different ones. I've known many people who have gotten the vaccine that get the flu anyway, and several others that haven't gotten the vaccine (including myself) that hasn't gotten the flu. I'm not saying I won't catch it, or have never had the flu. I'm simply saying that the vaccine isn't 100% and everything works differently for everyone.

Nicki McAleer
Nicki McAleer

See, the thing about drugs (vaccines included) is that they don't work the same way for everyone. And the thing about voting is that it's universal - the same for everyone. Apples and oranges, in my books.

Allison Dean
Allison Dean

Not getting vaccinated is like not voting...don't complain later when you are not happy with the results

Joe Baxter
Joe Baxter

Boss won't let me leave work to get it. So I just get the whole office sick

Pieter de Kooker
Pieter de Kooker

Some people gets sick of the vaccine itself and should not get vaccinated-I know because I am one of them but if it works for one it is a good thing to get.

Tiziana Degasperis
Tiziana Degasperis

condivido.... è il primo anno che non faccio il vaccino e me ne sono pentita!!!

Heather Brown
Heather Brown

I've got the flu right now. Trust me, I wish I had gotten the vaccine.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@Chad Revis 

did you even bother have it explained to you what was in the flu shot? Did you bother to make sure your information was not gleaned from a nutjob website?

There is nothing in the flu-shot that is a threat to the human-body or even toxic is the amounts injected. Absolutely nothing in that shot that is of any harm in the dosages given... And it is always much safer than the flu.