NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Government health officials have released their first estimates of how effective the flu vaccine has been this season.
Early estimates show the vaccine has been 36 percent effective in preventing that severe illness that would send a patient to a doctor.
When it comes to the nasty H3N2 flu strain dominating this season, the CDC said the vaccine has been 25 percent effective in patients of all ages, but better in young children.
“In children from 6 months to 8 years of age against influenza H3N2 it’s 51 percent. If you look at effectiveness in the same children against both flu a and b it’s as high as 59 percent which is a very important reason that if you haven’t vaccinated yet, there is significant benefit in that high risk group,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
Overall the vaccine has been 67 percent effective against the H1N1 flu virus that’s also circulating, and 42 percent effective against flu B viruses.
“Flu virus has an extraordinary capability of what we call drifting from season to season. It changes and mutates just enough to get it out of the range of protecting of the vaccine.
That’s why several groups including the National Institutes of Health are working on a universal flu vaccine that would essentially give long lasting protection against all flu viruses.
In order for children to be protected by their vaccine, they need two shots.
The official recommendations are that for children 6 months to 8 years of age, the very first time they get a flu shot, must be followed by a second booster shot at least 4 weeks later.
“The reason is at that age children need to build up their immune system. With one shot they can’t fight off the flu,” Dr. Jaime Khemraj said.
After the first year when a child gets two shots they can get a single shot each flu season.
The 36 percent effectiveness number is just a little below the average vaccine effectiveness for the last 14 years that the CDC has been tracking the vaccine.