MARIN COUNTY (KRON) — Every year around this time, health experts encourage people to get a flu shot, but there are troubling signs that this year’s vaccination may not be working as well as hoped.
A new study suggests that the vaccine may only be about 10 percent effective.
On Wednesday, KRON4 spoke with an infectious disease specialist.
A recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine notes that in Australia, this year’s flu vaccine appears to be only about 10 percent effective. That’s important because what happens in Australia is usually a pretty good indicator of how well this year’s flu shot will work here in the United States.
Dr. Alex Evens is an infectious diseases expert at Marin General in Kentfield.
“Often times, we have the same sort of response rate during the next six-eight months, so there is concern,” Evens said.
In good years, the flu vaccine is about 40-to-60 percent effective. It’s not entirely clear why this year’s shot is lagging.
Dr. Evens says it could have something to do with the way the vaccine is being manufactured. He also notes that even if the shot isn’t working well in Australia, it could still be effective here.
“This is all just pure science and speculation,” Evens said. “We don’t know how this flu vaccine will be this year. It could be fantastic.”
But even if the vaccine is only 10 percent effective, health experts still strongly recommend getting a shot anyway.
Basically, any protection against the flu is better than nothing.
Getting the shot will also help prevent the virus from spreading.
“We want to make sure that everyone gets a shot,” Evens said. “Therefore, we can have some sort of herd immunity. That’s where everyone gets the vaccine, you protect each other. You want to at least try to do that.”
Dr. Evens also says that right now, just before the holidays, is the best time to get a flu shot.
The virus tends to spread quickly when people are traveling and gathered together for Christmas and New Year’s.
Finally, Dr. Evens says there are efforts underway to develop a more effective vaccine, possibly even something that could be ready for this flu season.
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