Alberta Health says this season, the influenza vaccine was between 45 and 50 per cent effective.
“This year we actually had a year where influenza H1 was circulating,” Dr. Martin Lavoie, deputy medical officer of health for Alberta Health, explained.
“Of course it’s not as high as we would like, obviously, but this is way higher than last year when we had H3 circulating and the vaccine effectiveness was actually close to zero. It provided almost no protection last year, and so this year, providing about 50 per cent is actually pretty good.”
Health officials said last year’s flu vaccine wasn’t an ideal match to combat the season’s nasty H3N2 virus. In new research, scientists say it was a single mutation that caused the drift, making the vaccine less than 20 per cent effective.
“If we look at the year before, when the vaccine effectiveness was just about zero, we had way more people being way more sick, ending up in hospital, ending up in ICU and dying compared to this past season where the vaccine effectiveness was not perfect, but much higher,” Lavoie said.
“It makes a big difference.”
This year, 27 per cent of Albertans received the flu shot, which was down by three per cent from the year before.
Lavoie stressed, regardless of its seasonal effectiveness, the flu vaccine is still the best protection we have.
“For some people, being immunized will make a difference between life and death. Every year, Albertans die from influenza and we’ve got dozens and dozens and dozens of Albertans dying every year.”
Recently, officials in the U.S. deemed the nasal spray form of the vaccine commonly used in children isn’t as effective as previously thought. The latest numbers showed it only worked three per cent of the time.
Here in Canada, health authorities will be examining the research on the nasal spray next week.