Experts say that this year's flu vaccine may be only 10% effective. Dr. John Myers joined us on Tuesday to tell us if we should still be getting the flu vaccine and what the effectiveness means.
Here is a transcript of the interview:
Shelley Kirk: Here, to help us with this, is Dr. John Myers of St. Vincent. We have a lot to talk about, so 10% effectiveness, what does this mean?
Dr. John Myers: Then, Australia had its flu season. And they had the same vaccine that we have approximately. And their numbers show that it only has a 10% effectiveness. That means that only 10% of those receiving the vaccine will be protected against the flu.
SK: Does that mean that people should not worry about getting the vaccine?
Dr.: Still, you should get vaccinated because 10% is better than nothing. Historically, in a good year, it only has a 40-50% effectiveness. The flu is still a dangerous disease. It's not just a bad cold: high fever, muscle aches, fever, going to bed, you're very sick. Second, there are complications: pneumonia, sinus infections, ear infections, between 10,000 and 20,000 die each year from the flu. So 10% is better than nothing.
SK: 10% is what Australia experienced. It's something they're calculating.
Dr .: Right. That is your worst fear. We still want you vaccinated against the flu because the percentage we have may be higher. And it's still the best defense we have against the flu.
SK: Now, we open this to our viewers to give us some questions from the viewers. Skip Willis asked us a question saying that it is not for the right tension.
Dr.: Well, they took the tension ten months ago. They had to look at what their last year was and make their best prediction through sampling around the world. Then, they try to combine it and make the flu vaccine. The problem is that, with influenza A, there is a genetic drift, so there are proteins that change, so you think you have the correct vaccine and you do not have it. That is what they fear is happening this year.
SK: It could happen any year, right?
Dr .: Right, it happens every year.
SK: Someone else asks if it's too late to catch the flu Shot? How long do the benefits take to establish themselves?
Dr. .: It's not too late. The body needs two weeks to develop the antibodies. Typical peaks of the flu season in February. It is still very early and I would recommend getting vaccinated against the flu.
SK: And there are certain populations where it is really recommended.
Dr. .: Young people, the elderly, people with chronic medical conditions: they are much more susceptible to contracting the flu and have worse complications.
SK: Okay, now, one thing we're talking about is the fact that only 10% effectiveness actually feeds people who think that the flu vaccine does not do much. We have a person who says that he has not received the flu vaccine in five years and that he has been well.
Dr .: It has been good for the herd effect. Everyone around him has received the vaccine and they have not fallen ill and have never been exposed to it. Now, some older people who have had it when they were younger may have some cross-immunity, but most people who have never been sick have never been really exposed to the flu.
SK: What about the people who say that the flu vaccine makes you sick?
Dr.: You can not get the flu from the flu shot. The flu vaccine is only proteins. You may have a pain in your arm, some bruising, some discomfort, you may have a feeling of achey for 24 hours, but you can not get the flu from the flu shot.
SK: How can you account for the people who do receive? Sick after the flu shot?
Dr. .: The body needs two weeks to produce antibodies against the flu, so it is possible that it has already been ill. Most of the time, it is the body's response to your body building antibodies. The real flu is much worse than they think and they are really sick.
SK: Are there people who should not be vaccinated against the flu?
Dr. .: They used to say that people were less than six months old. Apart from that, you should get the opportunity. They used to say that people are allergic to eggs. But now they say there are some vaccines that are not exposed to eggs. But for the most part, the majority of the population can be vaccinated against the flu.
SK: Even people who get vaccinated against the flu, there are things you can do to prevent the flu, right?
Dr. .: The most important thing is to wash your hands. Second, if you are sick, stay at home. Fever, chills, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, do not go to work. If you think you have the flu, today we can treat you with some medication, so come early.
SK: The last thing he leaves people with …
Dr .: He was still getting the flu vaccine. Like I said, it's like playing basketball, I'm not even going to shoot because I can not score. You should get the vaccine because, even if it is not at 10%, you can protect your family and the people around you.
SK: Okay, get a flu shot and you will be available for everything.
Dr. .: It is available and the risks are low. I just do not want people to say that it's only 10% and the photo is not taken.
SK: Dr. John Myers, thank you very much.
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(This story was originally published on December 5, 2017)