Winter 2012 – 2013 Flu Vaccine Provided Little Protection for Seniors

Last January, the L.A. Times published a story advising Californians to “Immunize, immunize!”  against the flu. Flu vaccines are never as effective as most others, such as those designed to protect against diseases like measles and polio, because the exact strain or strains of flu that circulate are different each year.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University, writing during the flu season, found that the flu shot provided protection to about 62 percent of those who received it and can be considered “safe and effective.”  However, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s findings later in the season were less positive. The CDC found that the overall success rate of last year’s vaccine was 56 percent. This represents a slight decline, albeit not a major one.

The CDC also found that seniors — who are more likely to have serious complications from the flu — are much less well protected by the vaccine. The CDC found that the vaccine was only nine percent effective against the harsh strain of flu that many people contracted this season, and only 27 percent effective for seniors overall.  The CDC has no explanation as to why this is the case, but it does explain the high numbers of elderly patients who were hospitalized with the flu this year.

Health officials continue to urge everyone to get vaccinated next year. While the protection is not perfect, they reason, it is better than nothing.  On the other hand, every vaccine has risks. You should ask your doctor if you should get a shot next year. And if you have received a shot over the last year and suffered complications, you should consider speaking to an injury attorney to see whether your doctor made an error in allowing you to take the flu shot.

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