Flu season has officially begun, and many people are already in full alert mode, stocking up on vitamin C packets and washing their hands religiously to protect themselves from the dreaded virus. But should people also roll up their sleeve and get the flu shot to help offset the risk of falling prey to the flu this fall, too?
Whether or not a person chooses to get the shot may depend on how they like to play the odds. A recent review, done by researchers in the United States (via CBC News), suggests that the flu shot is only about 59 percent effective for healthy young adults. As a result, the researchers concluded that the seasonal vaccination only confers “moderate protection.”
Moreover, they argued that in cases of pandemic, the flu shot’s positive benefit is virtually non-existent.
“Influenza vaccines can provide moderate protection against virologically confirmed influenza, but such protection is greatly reduced or absent in some seasons,” wrote the authors, according to CBC.ca.
But the review also pointed to a few holes in the research surrounding the vaccination and its overall value to people in reducing their chances of getting sick. For one, said the authors, there’s not enough definitive information about how the vaccine protects the elderly and children — the people most vulnerable to the influenza virus.
The study’s authors are calling for more advanced vaccines. “We need new and better vaccines,” Michael Osterholm, of the University of Minnesota, an infectious disease specialist and lead author of the study told CBC News. “We liken the current vaccines to kind of a 1.0 iPhone level and what we need is a 10.0,” he said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is still urging Canadians to get the vaccine however, citing it and frequent hand-washing as the most effective means of preventing infection. The flu shot has even become more convenient and accessible. Canadians can now get the shot at their local pharmacy by a pharmacist rather than attending a clinic or going to their family doctor.
But the flu shot isn’t without its own internal problems. Health Canada recently recalled a batch of flawed vaccines from pharmaceutical company Novartis after testing revealed that it contained a bug or flaw that may greatly reduce its effectiveness. At present, there doesn’t appear to be any adverse health effects associated with that flaw.
Do you get the flu shot each year?