According to a government study, the flu vaccine isn’t really working. The study shows the vaccine is only 23% effective.
Health officials say the vaccine is ineffective because it doesn’t include the bug that is making people sick.
“This is an uncommon year,” said Dr. Alicia Fry, a flu vaccine expert at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who was involved in the study.
The CDC cautioned the vaccine might not be as effective this year. The CDC warned in December the vaccine wasn’t “matched” to the strain that has been spreading around the country.
Each year, the flu vaccine is reformulated, based on experts’ best guess at which three or four strains will be the biggest problem. Those decisions are usually made in February, months before the flu season, to give companies that make flu shots and nasal spray vaccine enough time to make enough doses.
But this year’s formula didn’t include the strain of H3N2 virus that ended up causing about two-thirds of the illnesses this winter. And that strain tends to cause more hospitalizations and deaths, particularly in the elderly, making this a particularly bad winter to have a problem with the flu vaccine.
So far, this years flu season has been particularly harsh. Hospital rates for people 65 and up are higher than they were this time last year.