This year’s flu shot offered little protection to seniors, new data reveals

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Carlos Maisonet, 73, reacts as Dr. Eva Berrios-Colon, a professor at Touro College of Pharmacy, injects him with flu vaccine during a visit to the faculty practice center at Brooklyn Hospital in New York in January. — Canadian Press/Associated Press photo

By Helen Branswell

The Canadian Press — Toronto

A new study suggests this year’s flu vaccine provided little protection to those 65 and older who got a shot.

The data suggest the vaccine reduced an older adult’s risk of contracting H3N2 influenza, which is the main strain circulating in North America this winter, by only nine per cent.

The work was done for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which released the findings today.

Dr. Joe Bresee, a flu expert with the CDC, says it’s important for older people to know that if they got a shot and have developed flu-like illness, they could have the flu and should see a doctor about whether they need antiviral drugs.

The vaccine effectiveness study found that overall, this year’s flu vaccine reduced the risk of developing influenza requiring medical care by 56 per cent, and for H3N2, the overall estimate was 47 per cent.

That is very close to the interim vaccine effectiveness estimate for Canada released last month, which placed the overall protection level against H3N2 this year at 45 per cent.

Organizations: Helen BranswellThe Canadian Press, U.S. Centers, CDC

Geographic location: North America, Canada

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  • expat in Maine
    February 21, 2013 - 16:52

    The current US recommendation is for a triple strength flu shot for seniors (65+). Something about lack of predictable response to the regular strength shot, possibly due to aging immune systems. I have found that almost no one is aware of that, and that all seniors are being given the regular strength shot. I was able to procure the stronger one, so it was available. This may explain the CDC's findings of only minimal efficacy.