CALGARY – New Canadian research published this week has found this season’s flu shot is less effective than previously thought and in some cases may actually increase a person’s risk of becoming ill.
“Unfortunately this year the vaccine hasn’t worked at all,” says study co-author Dr. Jim Dickinson of the University of Calgary. “The reason for that is we have a version of the H3N2 virus that has moved away from the vaccine strain we’re using.”
The research published in the journal, Eurosurveillance also found the flu shot’s effectiveness diminishes if people received the vaccine 2 years in a row.
The study states, ” In particular VE (vaccine effectiveness) against influenza A (H3N2) among those who received the 2014/2015 influenza vaccine without prior vaccination in 2013/14 was higher (43%) than among participants who were vaccinated with the same A (H3N2) vaccine component in both 2013/14 and 2014/15 (- 15 %)”
“A negative effectiveness suggests the vaccine made people more susceptible to the flu,” Dr. Dickinson says, “We need to do further research to understand why this has happened.”
Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health says provincial health authorities are working to treat those suffering from this year’s flu. So far there have been 3,726 lab confirmed cases and 1,169 people have been hospitalized. 52 people with the flu have also died, 75% of those patients were over the age of 80.
” We have ensured adequate supplies across the province of drugs that are known to reduce the severity and length of influenza symptoms like tamiflu are available to physicians and pharmacists,” Dr. James Talbot said in an audio update posted online on January 29th.
“If you are sick you should stay home and avoid public places like schools, your place of business, and any place where others might gather.”
This year’s flu shot is still available. It also provides protection to the H1N1 strain of influenza A and influenza B. There have been 225 lab confirmed cases of influenza B so far this season in Alberta and influenza B activity typically peaks later in the flu season.