Along with many lovely things, Fall marks the beginning of flu season. The most recent annual statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are concerning. For the 2018-19 flu season, only about 45% of adults and about 63% of children got vaccinated. The CDC estimates that between 36,000 and 61,000 people in the U.S. died from the flu. To put this in perspective, this is about twice the number of Americans killed in car accidents annually. And while 9 in 10 people in the US use seat belts, fewer than half get the flu vaccine each year. It is tempting to feel the flu vaccine isn’t necessary–to many, the risk seems low. However, 600,000 people were hospitalized due to the flu during the 2017-2018 season, 50,000 of whom were adults under 50. Half of the children who die of the flu each year have no underlying medical conditions. Many of our patients ask about the low efficacy rates in preventing flu each year with the flu vaccine. We recommend thinking of the flu vaccine as decreasing both the potency and spread of the flu, rather than simply the number of cases prevented. While rates of prevention may be low (this varies year-to-year between 20% to 60% –the CDC estimates the flu vaccine for the 2017-2018 season was 36% effective at preventing the flu), rates of prevention of severe cases are much higher– vaccinated people who end up getting sick have less severe illnesses. And flu virus spread is greatly impacted by small decreases in flu rates.
For adults, including those over age 65, The Village Doctor is again offering Flublok, a quadrivalent recombinant influenza vaccine which has shown greater efficacy over the last several years compared to the traditional quadrivalent vaccine. A New England Journal of Medicine study of over 9,000 participants showed Flublok to prevent 30% more cases of flu than the traditional vaccine. It is felt to be comparable in efficacy to the high-dose vaccine for those over age 65. While this is a slightly more expensive vaccine, we believe the benefit to be well worth it. Your trusted medical team here at TVD reminds all of our patients to call today to schedule your flu shot!
Dr. Jennifer Abrams