News about the Flu Vaccine for 2013 – 2014 Flu Season
Flu season this year came with a will to fight the most modern flu vaccine. Vaccines have been reported to have failed several people around the world. But the numbers are not enough to generally consider the vaccine to be ineffective. Health reports have shown that people who had the vaccine still experience flu symptoms. However, these symptoms disappeared before doctors can declare that the patient really had flu.
But another set of numbers show a different story. The overall efficacy rate of the flu vaccine is at 59%, based on the study conducted by the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy of the University of Minnesota. This means that the vaccine has a 41 percent failure rate. When we consider risks and probability, getting the flu shot today is just the same as keeping yourself healthy and getting enough sleep. In other words, you do not have to get the shot to protect yourself during flu season.
Another statistics shows the efficacy rate of the vaccine to be around 56 percent, except when the patient is 60 years old and above. This is based on actual people who took the vaccine before the 2012-2013 flu season. It seems that actual efficacy rate is lower than the theoretical one.
The Need to Improve the Flu Vaccine
The poor efficacy rate of this year’s flu vaccine is a compelling reason to start reworking the approach into dealing with the influenza virus next year. One can easily reject it as a flu vaccine when you consider its failure rate and how it is not capable of stopping all strains of the virus. The CDC is now planning to have a four-component flu vaccine that is expected to stop 4 strains of the flu virus. These are H1N1, H3N2, the 2 strains of influenza A and influenza B.
These are the 4 predominant strains of the flu virus known today which will prevent any possible H1N1 and H3N2 scare. The H1N1 virus is the most popular strain since it is responsible for 4 historical flu outbreaks: the Spanish Flu, the Russian Flu, the outbreak in Fort Dix and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. So the latest vaccine will be the most powerful one based on the number of flu viruses that it supposed to stop. Testing for the efficacy is much easier now. However, there is also the aspect of safety. This new vaccine is more potent which means it can also have far worse side-effects than the previous vaccine.
The efficacy of the flu vaccine is also dependent on the time period required for the antivirus to spread through the body. This is why CDC started administering the vaccine this month to give the antivirus 30 days time to circulate throughout the immune system of each American.
Flu Vaccine’s Constant Wall
The only problem with the current plan is that it will have nothing for any new strains of the virus during 2013 – 2014’s flu season. The CDC is hoping that there will no such occurrence but the possibility of the current strains of flu viruses to mutate is still there. And just like the past flu seasons, health officials are expecting mutant flu viruses that will have resistance to the latest vaccine.
For this year’s flu season, the latest vaccine will receive its true and toughest test as more and more people take it in preparation for October, the month when flu season starts in North America. CDC is expecting the vaccine to be far more successful than the one used last year. Officials are hoping to have an increase in efficacy of at least 20% or an overall efficacy rate of 79%.
This is a very ambitious goal considering the factors that will affect the vaccine’s efficacy. Virus mutation is the worst enemy since it can render the vaccine completely use on that strain of the flu virus.
The Issue with the Seniors
Another factor that can through a huge curve ball on the flu vaccine is the elderly. Last year’s vaccine had a terrible efficacy rate on senior citizens, an embarrassing 27 percent. But against stronger strains of the virus, the efficacy rate drop further down to 9 percent. This also led to a significant number of flu related fatalities on this age group during last year’s flu season.
However, health officials claim that the primary culprit is the significant decline of the body’s immune system when it reaches 60 years old and above. The vaccine may be able to stop to virus from multiplying but it is unable to stop the flu symptoms which can trigger other illnesses.
The elderly should still take the flu vaccine since it is still considered the best defense against the dreaded influenza virus according to the health experts.