March 21, 2016 5:55 pm
Updated: March 21, 2016 7:37 pm

2015-16 flu shot providing good protection against H1N1: study

WATCH ABOVE: The flu virus is very difficult to predict and the flu shot needs to always be changing in order to keep. That’s why even on years where the vaccine is considered a success it’s nowhere near 100%. Heather Yourex-West reports.

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CALGARY – Research published this week has found this year’s flu shot is providing good protection against the most actively circulating strain of the virus, H1N1.

“It’s pretty good, last year it was zero per cent effective, this year it’s 64 per cent,” Dr. James Dickinson, a researcher with the University of Calgary and co-author of the 2015/2016 interim vaccine effectiveness report, said.

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Last year’s flu shot was declared a failure because the most common strain of the virus in circulation, H3N2, had mutated away from what the vaccine had been protecting against.  This year’s H1N1 strain, on the other hand, is fairly similar to the strains that circulated several years ago.

READ MORE: Canadian study finds 2014-2015 flu shot could increase risk of getting sick

Getting a flu shot does not guarantee you won’t get sick but health officials say it does reduce your risk.

“Each year, we don’t exactly know what’s going to happen, but if you don’t get immunized, for sure you’ll get no protection,” Dr. Martin Lavoie, Alberta’s acting Chief Medical Officer of Health.

The number of Albertans going to get the flu shot has been low this year.  About 27 per cent of the population has rolled up its sleeves, down from about 30 per cent last year and far short of the province’s target of immunizing 40 per cent of the population.  As a result, health officials say the province will purchase fewer doses of the vaccine for next season.

“We’re going to reduce our purchase to be able to cover 35 per cent of the population –  that’s our prediction for next year’s demand.”

READ MORE: Alberta aims for 40 % immunization rate this flu season 

The flu hit Alberta relatively late in the season this year and is continuing to circulate.  So far there have been more the 3,800 lab-confirmed cases of the flu,  1,040 people have been hospitalized and 38 people have died.  Most of the deaths have been due to H1N1 and all but one person had not been fully immunized.

The number of confirmed flu cases across Alberta as of Thursday March 17, 2016.

Alberta Health Services has released the latest numbers regarding flu in our province.

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