Vaccine 62 percent effective against fluPublished 11:13am Friday, January 18, 2013
BY STEPHEN H. COWLES/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
FRANKLIN—The Centers for Disease Control says the vaccine for this flu season is 62 percent effective against what’s out there.
“It is far from perfect, but still the best protection against the flu,” said Larry Hill, regional public information officer for the Virginia Department of Health. “Those who are vaccinated, but get the flu anyway, probably will have less severe illness.”
This year’s vaccine is “right on target” for the predicted H3, which is more severe than the mild H1, said Dr. Nancy Welch, interim director of the Western Tidewater Health Department.
“Vaccines are never 100 percent effective, but 62 percent is a whole lot more than zero percent,” Welch said.
Dr. Donald Bowling, a family physician at Courtland Medical Center, said part of the effectiveness comes from how a person’s immune system reacts to the vaccination.
“Some people might not develop an immunity, and that can also affect efficacy,” Bowling said.
The vaccine is made a year ahead, and pharmacies have to make an educated guess from where the virus is coming from, he added.
China is one place where the flu regularly seems to originate, but researchers don’t know why, Bowling said.
As far as who should be vaccinated, the previous thinking was to focus on high-risk group such as infants, seniors and people with chronic illnesses, said Welch.
“We’ve learned over time, and the thinking has changed in an improved way to give vaccinations to everyone, which reduces the amount of virus in the community,” she said.
Once a person gets the flu shot, which contains weakened or dead flu viruses, the body’s immune system begins making antibodies. About two weeks are needed to build up protection against a virus.
Further, if you get the flu soon after a shot, it can mean you were already exposed either beforehand or during the two weeks. There’s also a chance of getting a different flu virus not covered by the vaccine.
Bowling reminds people that if they develop flu symptoms, such as a fever, sore throat and mild aches, they need to get to their doctor within 48 hours for a prescription to Tamiflu, which can reduce the flu’s severity and length.
“After that, it’s too late,” he said.