Flu Jab Found To Work In Just 3% Of Cases

February 6, 2015 4:45 pm

The flu vaccine issued this winter is estimated to work in just 3% of cases, Public Health England (PHE) has revealed. That compares to a typical past effectiveness of 50%. According PHE, the “low protection” rate is a result of a “mismatch” between the influenza strain used to make the vaccine and the strain doing the rounds this winter. It said there has been a genetic “drift” in the virus which had also been recorded in studies in the US and Canada. Deputy chief medical officer John Watson said: “We do see ‘drift’ in the flu virus from time to time, but even so, I want to reassure people that it is still the best overall way to protect yourself and your family from flu, along with good hand hygiene. “Antiviral drugs are available and effective, and doctors should prescribe them for those at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill due to flu.” He added that “the latest data show that levels of flu are generally decreasing in the UK”. PHE’s findings were based on data from more than 1,300 patients. The author of the study and PHE’s head of flu surveillance, Dr Richard Pebody, said it is impossible to anticipate whether such a drift is likely to occur when determining which strains of flu virus should be included in the next vaccine. “It’s not possible to fully predict the strains that will circulate in any given season, and there is always a risk of a drift occurring as we have seen this year. “However, it’s important to be aware that this does not occur every season. “Flu vaccine is still the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus which can cause severe illness and deaths each year among at-risk groups, including older people, pregnant women and those with a health condition, even one that is well managed. “Throughout the last decade, there has generally been a good match between the strains of flu in the vaccine and those that subsequently circulate, so it’s crucial that these results do not discourage people in at-risk groups from having flu vaccination now, or in the future.”

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