Flu Shot Could Be Less Effective This Year

December 13, 2017 05:39 PM

Flu activity typically starts to pick up around the holidays.

And at Fairview Urgent Care in Eagan, health care workers are bracing for the end of December.


"One of the challenges is that people tend to gather over the holidays," Dr. Boris Beckert said. "When they gather, they spread the germ through coughing, sneezing and hugging. So we are bracing ourselves for more of an onslaught."

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, there have been 130 hospitalizations due to the flu so far this year.

Tips to Avoid Getting or Spreading the Flu

  • Make sure to get a flu shot every year
  • Don't get too close to people who are sick
  • Make sure to cover yourself when sneezing or coughing.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water.
  • Don't touch your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Take flu antiviral drugs and antibiotics
  • Do not share cups and straws

For more information, visit both the Center for Disease Control and Minnesota Department of Health's online flu sites.

That's number is pretty typical compared to previous years. What's more unpredictable is how effective the flu shot will actually be this year.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the flu shot was 43 percent effective last year against one of the most predominant strains of influenza. 

This year in Australia, where flu season has already concluded, the vaccine was only about 10 percent effective against the most common strain. Australia's flu season is often a leading indicator of what the season will be like in the U.S.

"If you average the last few years, we are at about 30 percent efficacy," said Karen Martin, an epidemiologist with the MDH.

Martin said looking at data from prior years might be just as good a predictor of efficacy. And she added some protection is better than none.

"I have to say 10 percent or 30 percent might sound like a very small number," she said. "But when you think about the thousands of people who get the flu ...you are still preventing a large number of people from getting sick."


Ellen Galles

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