Tag: flu myths

Is This Year’s Flu Vaccine Working?

Breaking News – Interim Estimates of 2018–19 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness have now been released (see below)

Flu season is just getting started, but I’m sure that you have already heard folks rating how well this year’s flu shots are working.

Are flu vaccines working well?
Are flu vaccines working well?

Of course, if you had a flu shot and have already gotten the flu, then you’re gonna think the flu shot isn’t working very well at all.

And if you are vaccinated and protected and have avoided the flu, then it is working so far, right?

Is This Year’s Flu Vaccine Working?

While we won’t know how well this year’s flu vaccine is working until the CDC releases the preliminary estimates on flu vaccine effectiveness, there are some good signs already.

  1. The majority of the influenza viruses collected from the United States so far have been “characterized antigenically and genetically as being similar to the cell-grown reference viruses representing the 2018–2019 Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccine viruses.”
  2. The most frequently identified influenza virus type reported by public health laboratories was influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus.

Remember, to be effective, you want the flu vaccine to match the strains of flu virus that are circulating in the community. A mismatch in flu virus strain or antigenic drifting leads to lower flu vaccine effectiveness (VE).

Remember the 2004-05 flu season? That was the year that because of a drifted A(H3N2) virus, “only 5% of viruses from study participants were well matched to vaccine strains.” And the flu vaccine wasn’t very effective at all.

Still, even when the flu vaccine matches circulating strains, in general, as we have certainly seen, “flu vaccines provide better protection against influenza B or influenza A (H1N1) viruses than against influenza A (H3N2) viruses.”

YearFlu Virus StrainVE
2004-05A(H3N2)10
2005-06A(H3N2)21
2006-07A(H1N1)52
2007-08A(H3N2)37
2008-09A(H1N1)41
2009-10A(H1N1)pdm0956
2010-11A(H3N2)60
2011-12A(H3N2)47
2012-13A(H3N2)49
2013-14A(H1N1)pdm0952
2014-15A(H3N2)19
2015-16A(H1N1)pdm0948
2016-17A(H3N2)40
2017-18A(H3N2)40
2018-19A(H1N1)pdm0947

So if you had to guess, you could probably say that this year’s flu vaccine is going to be at least 50% effective.

So just as good as flipping a coin? Not exactly.

There are a lot of benefits to getting a flu shot besides avoiding the flu, like avoiding severe flu, hospitalization, and death.

And since flu vaccines are safe and flu can be a life-threatening disease, even in those without any medical problems, wouldn’t you take any chance you could to reduce your child’s chances of getting sick?

When will we know how well this year’s flu vaccine is really working?

The CDC typically releases the first preliminary flu vaccine effectiveness report of the season in February.

Not that you should wait! Flu season is well underway and this is a great time to get a flu vaccine and get protected for the rest of flu season.

Interim Estimates of 2018–19 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness

On schedule, the CDC has released this year’s Interim Estimates of 2018–19 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness.

During this period, overall adjusted vaccine effectiveness against all influenza virus infection associated with medically attended ARI was 47% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 34%–57%). For children aged 6 months–17 years, overall vaccine effectiveness was 61% (44%–73%).

Interim Estimates of 2018–19 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness — United States, February 2019

That’s certainly better than we have seen in recent years.

More on the Effectiveness of This Year’s Flu Vaccine

Updated February 15, 2019

Does Getting a Flu Vaccine Increase Your Risk of Spreading the Flu or Getting Others Sick?

Have you heard the latest flu vaccine bombshell from anti-vaccine folks?

Like all other anti-vaccine bombshells, this one is a dud.
Like all other anti-vaccine bombshells, this one is a dud.

They think that they have evidence that flu vaccines spread the flu.

Does Getting a Flu Vaccine Increase Your Risk of Spreading the Flu or Getting Others Sick?

The latest anti-vaccine bombshell comes from Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, and is posted among a bunch of other articles that will have you scratching your head.

Did you know that Amazon’s Alexa is a ‘demon device,’ Apple is banning Christian apps in a war on Christianity, and that CHAOS is coming in the new year?

Not surprisingly, the “latest” anti-vaccine bombshell was a dud, even though it continues to be shared on the majority of anti-vaccine websites and Facebook groups.

What’s the problem?

Anti-vaccine folks are simply misinterpreting a small study, Infectious virus in exhaled breath of symptomatic seasonal influenza cases from a college community, from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Of course, that the study wasn’t a great anti-vaccine bombshell is easy to see if you actually read it.

Although the study did find an association between vaccination and greater fine-aerosol shedding for influenza A infections, if the flu vaccine really increases your risk for spreading the flu, then:

  • why wasn’t getting a flu vaccine associated with coarse-aerosol or nasopharyngeal shedding?
  • why wasn’t the association of vaccination and shedding significant for influenza B infections?

The answer is that because it was a small study, the finding about vaccination and shedding likely wasn’t really significant.

It wasn’t even what they were looking at in the study, which was instead trying to prove that you don’t have to cough and sneeze to spread the flu – simply breathing can spread infectious flu particles.

“Unvaccinated people are more likely to get the flu and transmit it to other people because they shed lots of virus into the nasal secretions into the air.”

Donald K. Milton

And as the authors of the study clarified, folks who aren’t sick because they got vaccinated and didn’t get the flu won’t shed and won’t get anyone else sick.

If anything, the study confirms just how hard it is to avoid folks sick with the flu and why everyone should get a flu vaccine each year.

And how hard it is to avoid anti-vaccine misinformation

After all, anti-vaccine folks could have done a little digging and found that a previous study about influenza virus aerosols, Exposure to Influenza Virus Aerosols During Routine Patient Care, didn’t find a statistically significant difference among folks who got a flu vaccine and how much flu virus they shed (emitters vs non-emitters). In fact, they found that a small percentage of these patients were superemitters, who “exceeded average influenza virus aerosol concentrations by multiple times.”

What’s that mean?

It’s just another reason to get vaccinated and protected. While you don’t want to be exposed to a superemitter and get the flu, you also don’t want to get the flu and become a superemitter, getting lots of other people sick.

More on Does Getting a Flu Vaccine Increase Your Risk of Spreading the Flu or Getting Others Sick?

Do the FDA and CDC Tell People to Exaggerate Disease Statistics?

Have you heard that the FDA and CDC tell people to exaggerate disease statistics, especially morbidity and mortality statistics of vaccine-preventable diseases?

Why would they do that?

Anti-vaccine folks think that they do it to scare folks into getting vaccinated and protected. While it’s just anti-vaccine propaganda, this is actually one anti-vaccine myth that I wish were true, because then it might mean that 185 kids didn’t die in last year’s flu season.

Do the FDA and CDC Tell People to Exaggerate Disease Statistics?

Of course, it’s not true.

The CDC does provide training material to help get more people vaccinated and protected, but they have never say to lie about or exaggerate disease statistics.

It's no secret that more people look to get vaccinated during a severe flu season.
It’s no secret that more people look to get vaccinated during a severe flu season.

The purpose of these training materials is to reinforce that it is very important to educate people about the dangers of getting the flu, but that it is also very important to not go too far and scare them.

Be concerned enough so that you get vaccinated, but don't worry too much...
Be concerned enough so that you get vaccinated, but don’t worry too much…

But don’t you have to exaggerate things to get people concerned enough to get vaccinated?

Uh, not if you understand what happens in a typical flu season, and definitely not if you understand what can happen in a very severe flu season.

Do you know how many kids, mostly unvaccinated and many otherwise healthy, die during a typical flu season. If you did, and you understood that the flu vaccines are safe, then you wouldn’t think of skipping it.

Problems arise because people get mixed messages from anti-vaccine folks, who tell them that flu vaccines are dangerous and that they can stay healthy and keep the flu away by taking elderberry syrup each day. Or that they can cure their flu symptoms with some Oscillococcinum.

They can’t and it won’t.

Get your family vaccinated and protected against the flu.

There’s no playbook that experts are using to try and trick you into getting vaccinated. Just folks trying to increase awareness, so that everyone understands that vaccines are safe and necessary, and they ignore anti-vaccine propaganda.

More on Promoting Vaccines

I’m Not Anti-Vaccine, I Just Don’t Believe in Flu Shots

Do you know any of these folks?

“I’m not anti-vaccine, I just don’t believe in flu shots.”

They likely get all other available vaccines for themselves and their kids, but for some reason, they skip the flu shot each year.

I’m Not Anti-Vaccine, I Just Don’t Believe in Flu Shots

Are they just anti-flu vaccine? Is that a thing?

Gloria Copeland told her followers that they didn’t need flu vaccinations because Jesus already “redeemed us from the curse of the flu.”
Gloria Copeland told her followers that they didn’t need flu vaccinations because Jesus already “redeemed us from the curse of the flu.”

Why don’t they “believe” in flu shots?

Typical answers you might get, if you ask, include:

  • I never get the flu – since about 5 to 20% of people get the flu each year, it is certainly possible that you never get the flu, especially if you aren’t around many other people that could spread the flu virus to you. But unless you live and work in a bubble, there is a good chance that you will eventually be exposed to someone with the flu, might catch the flu yourself, and will spread it to someone else.
  • I only get sick when I get a flu shot flu shots are inactivated and can’t actually give you the flu. Even the live virus nasal mist flu vaccine won’t cause you to have the flu. While flu vaccines can cause mild flu side effects, if you get sick after after a flu shot, it could be that you have another respiratory virus, your flu vaccine didn’t have time to work, or that it wasn’t effective.
  • I don’t need a flu shotyou do, if you want to reduce  your chances of getting the flu and having serious complications from a flu infection, which can affect anyone.
  • I got a flu shot last year – you need a flu vaccine each year
  • Flu vaccines don’t work – flu vaccines aren’t perfect, but they can reduce your risk of catching the flu and avoiding serious complications, even if you do get sick.
  • Flu shots are too expensive – most insurance plans cover the costs of flu vaccines, but  if you don’t have insurance, it is sometimes possible to find free flu shots at a local health clinic, or you could get a flu shot for $24 at Walmart with a GoodRx coupon.
  • I don’t have time to get a flu shot – do you have time to get sick with the flu? Many doctors now offer regular flu clinics that make it convenient to just come in and get a flu vaccine or if that isn’t possible, you can likely get a flu vaccine at a nearby pharmacy.
  • Someone on the Internet told me to never get a flu shot because they are poison – if you are avoiding a flu vaccine because you are worried about thimerosal, miscarriages, that they contain a vaginal spermicide, or other misinformation, then you likely aren’t just anti-flu vaccine…
  • Gloria Copeland told me I didn’t need one – Jesus didn’t give us a flu shot and doesn’t want you to die with the flu, or measles.

Stop making excuses, none of which hold water.

Get your flu vaccine, preferably before flu season starts and you start seeing flu activity in your area.

More on Being Anti-Flu Vaccine