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CDC Confirms What Everyone Suspected, Flu Vaccine Not Very Effective This Year

Preliminary results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show what everyone had suspected, this year’s flu vaccine isn’t very effective.

Final numbers might change slightly, but the vaccine’s effectiveness rate is only 36 percent.

“The over all studies suggest about 60 percent, that's a good standard [for a rate of effectiveness.] We'd love to have 90 or even 100 percent," said University of Pittsburgh’s Dr. Richard Zimmerman, who heads one of the five CDC sites that study flu vaccine effectiveness.

In the U.S. for the most deadly strain of flu, H3N2, this year’s vaccine is actually performing slightly better than in Canada and Australia. But Zimmerman says these results are still disappointing.

“Clearly we need either better vaccines or better use of current vaccines, choosing those products that might work better,” he said.

Zimmerman says vaccines that are not egg-based might be more effective at preventing disease in the future. Scientists use fluid from eggs injected with the flu virus to produce vaccines. This process takes about four to six months, and sometimes flu strains mutate so much the shots don’t provide adequate protection. 
Experts are still encouraging people to get the vaccine as it is still preventing infection to some degree.

So far at least 14 people in Allegheny County have died this season from flu-related complications. Statewide that number is 107, including two pediatric cases.

(Photo credit: diane cordelle/Flickr) 

WESA receives funding from UPMC.

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio where she covered a range of issues, including the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.