Research shows the flu shot is largely ineffective this year
Published Saturday, January 31, 2015 6:39PM EST
A group of occupational therapists were rewarded with a breakfast with members of Montreal Alouettes last week for having the highest rate of flu vaccinations in the entire MUHC.
But now it turns out the breakfast may have been all they got – research is showing this year's vaccine was 99 per cent ineffective.
“We have been monitoring the vaccine effectiveness for the past 10 years and this is the first time we see such a low effectiveness,” said Dr. Gaston De Serres, an epidemiologist at the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec
Dr. Horacio Arruda is the director of public health for Quebec. He says both American and Canadian studies have shown the vaccine for the H3N2 virus, the one that was expected to hit North America this winter, just didn't work.
That’s because vaccines take up to nine months to produce, and viruses mutate. So each year researchers have to decide way ahead of time which vaccine to make.
By the time the virus arrived in U.S., 68 per cent of H3N2 cases doctors were seeing did not come from the strains in the vaccine. In Canada, it was more than 95 per cent, Arruda said/
He added that five times as many Quebecers have been hit with the flu this season compared to last year, when the vaccine was 74 per cent effective.
With such a mismatched vaccine this year, Arruda says he expects many people will hold off on getting a flu shot next year, but he says that's not the answer.
“I think getting your shot [will] not giving you any problems. It can protect you more than we had this year, but we must also add other strategies” including having doctors to dispense drugs along with vaccines to the elderly and the weak.
Ultimately, scientists must find faster ways to create flu vaccines that will protect people from the strain going around on each season.
“We need to have a technology where we don't have to choose in February what we will include for a vaccine that is supposed to protect 12 months later,” said De Serres.