Updated: Wed Oct. 26 2011 20:13:28 CTVNews.ca Staff
Doctors have long extolled the flu shot’s importance, prompting many to wince through the needle every year. But a new analysis has cast doubt on the effectiveness of that annual ritual.
Vaccines provide a moderate shield against pesky influenza viruses but that protection can get weaker or disappear entirely during some seasons, according to a report published in The Lancet.
“While the vaccine does work and we still recommend that it be used, it does not demonstrate the kinds of efficacy levels we have reported,” said the report’s lead author Michael T. Osterholm.
Even TIV — the most widely-used flu vaccine in the United States — was only 59 per cent effective in healthy adults, the analysis found.
Osterholm and colleagues from the University of Minnesota reached their conclusion by sifting through 31 comprehensive studies on the efficacy of the flu vaccine.
While the report focuses particularly on vaccines used in the United States, Osterholm notes the analysis also reviews vaccines circulating in other parts of the world including the 2009 global pandemic vaccine.
Part of the problem, the report found, is that the medical community lacks evidence of how effective the flu shot is for some of the most vulnerable members of society.
“We didn’t find any trials that actually provided us with what we thought was state-of-the art information in children aged two to 17 or adults over age 65,” said Osterholm.
Children and the elderly are considered the most susceptible to flu-related illnesses and even death, he notes.
To remedy these gaps, the report calls for “new generation of more highly effective and cross-protective vaccines.”
Approaching flu season
To promote the vaccine, Health Canada has dubbed October “Influenza Immunization Awareness Month.” The lengthy moniker is based on estimates that flu season runs from November to April.
Recent figures from the Public Health Agency of Canada show there have been no flu outbreaks reported in Canada yet, just sporadic cases.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq has urged all Canadians over the age of six months to head to a local health centre and get the flu vaccine.
Every year, between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadians die of the flu and associated complications, according to Health Canada.
Comments are now closed for this story
Dan Wolfe“Flue vaccine less effective than once thought.” … well, out of all the public research, stats, and information on the web that is available on the flu shots. I can only say one thing that wraps up the entire issue solely based on the title of this article, all I can say is…. “DUH!”
SidPEI have never, in memory (over 30 years) gotten the flu. I have never, in my life, gotten the flu shot. I’ll stick with letting my body do it’s job. it seems to have a better track record than the vaccine.
just one momIn reference to the comment that flu shots should be mandatory…absolutely not. I know one couple who are grieving because their young child died after being given the flu shot. I have the right to choose what gets put into my body. I choose a healthy diet, exercise, and plenty of sleep instead of some synthetic garbage that will mess up my system. And how about washing our hands and staying home when we get sick? A mandatory flu shot? No thank you.
freedom44I never got the flu shot and I can not remember ever having the flu, I don’t take antibiotics either. A few years ago I got a really bad chest cold coughing all night for a week I finally went and bought some benylin and in the night I coughed up some black stuff. in the morning I got better…between the benylin and my immune system they worked together. when I get a cold I never go to the doctors because I rely on my immune system to do the work and benylin. Another good thing to take is a shot of alcohol it kills the germs. Baileys is my fav…just wanted to share that little piece of info.
Douglas Brown (Newmarket)I have never had a flu shot and never had the flu. Fighting viruses naturally builds your immune system much better than vaccines.
GigliammoI heard that my dad’s cousin’s friend from Australia has been getting the flu shot every year since he was a kid and he never got the flu in his life I’m told. so much for this 59% BS, sounds like 100% to me.
MikeThe vaccine works on a POPULATION level! Everyone needs to get it!If you are healthy and don’t get the vaccine you can just pass the flu onto the elderly, children and other at risk persons without knowning it.Not getting the vaccine is a selfish act; you are doing our great country a disservice.
Tom TaylorI routinely take it, even though up to a couple of years ago I was very healthy. I certainly took it this year — I’m getting chemotherapy and my immune system is seriously compromised. I agree with those who say 59% (or whatever it is for someone like me) is a lot better than nothing.
StewieI had the flu shot once & got the worst flu I ever had that year. Haven’t had a flu shot in 7 years & haven’t had the flu either. like many things in life, rolls the dice & takes your chances.
Stella in TorontoI have never had a flu shot in my life and never had the flu as long as I can remember..
BhscpaI am a health care worker and I care about my patients. I got my flu shot because I don’t want to spread a potentially fatal illness to anyone I am caring for. As a health care worker, I am intimately familiar with the latest research regarding the flu shot, the risks associated with ANY vaccine, and the devastating consequences the flu can cause for my patients.Can you imagine if I entered a hospital room and examined a patient without first washing my hands? Hand washing is a proven effective infection control measure. so is vaccination. I have weighed the risks and benefits, and I believe the benefits of the flu shot far outweigh the risks. look at the evidence, not just the hearsay, and make an informed decision. do you want to be the one in five million who suffers a rare side effect from the shot, or do you want to be the one in five who passes on this illness to a vulnerable family member?
CarolI have been getting the flu shot for years and have not had any flu and only a few light colds during this time. Before getting the shots I was frequently sick with flues and colds. therefore I get the shots requarly, even 50% seems good to me!
Vancouver ParentAs a parent of a child in one of Vancouver Public Schools I am very concern. I just realized how difficult is for a child to wash hands in the school. NO doubt that so many kids end up sick every year.please check this out and let me know if you don`t share my concernhttp://vsb-parents.blogspot.com/2011/10/wash-your-hands.html
heleneStop giving flu shots for two years and monitor the results; will there be more or less death …?The savings would be millions in useless flue-shots which in many cases actually cause severe influenca.
JPCIt only takes getting the flu once to be a convert. I don’t mean fever , sore throat and a runny nose. That’s not the flu, influenza is 7 days of 102 fever that can barely be controled, soreness of EVERY joint, total loss os appetite, the worste sore throat and congestion you’ll ever see. People think they get the flu but it’s just a common virus. Influenza kills people and trust me, I’ve had it and thought I was gonna die. I never want to go through that again.
AllyhsonWith all due respect, Othe homeopathic remedy Oscillococcinum has been in use for many decades in Europe, by millions of people, with excellent results.it does not claim to cure the flu but to alleviate the symptoms.to write it off summarily, as one commenter did, seems short0-sighted.
George PettittNo Flu in 50 years.I don’t believe in flu shots. The one and only one I ever had was a swine flu shot in 1974. I was sick for a full year after the shot.I’m 58 years old and have not had the flu in 50 years.I believe flu shots are dangereous and unnecessary under any circumstances.
LibertarianThe system keeps telling us they have answers and cures yet the rates of every type of disease is on the rise. No vaccination, pill, therapy, or radiation can beat preventative health care. in other words, you are what you eat.
WilliamThe flou shot is designed to kill off thousands of seniors in order to keep the global population down. Did you NOT know that? go read a few UN articles and agendas.
DavidI’m 62 and have never had a flu shot after my doctor took the time to explain to me the various toxins that are in those vaccines. I enjoy divine health and I cannot recall the last time I had any disease of consequence outside of the very odd cold. Live right, eat right and health is not an normally an issue. Avoid stress and stressful people. Works for me.
bckenHad my first, and only, flu shot in 1968. was sick all that winter. never again.
no flu shots for meI’m a senior, never had the flu in my life, never had a flu shot either. Another money maker for the drug companies and waste of tax payers $$$ Live healthy, eat well, wash hands, take Vitamin C, sleep 8 hours, best protection!
PBWOffer the shot and 59% are protected. Don’t offer the shot and 0% are protected. What’s the fuss? nothing in life is guaranteed to be 100% effective except death. Personally, I’ll take the shot before risking death by flu!
BridgeThe people I know who get the flu shot always seem to be sick with one thing or another.
SandyThe flu vaccine gave me Stephens Johnson Syndrom allergic reaction put me in hospital on IV cortisone. Hot red rashes and hives left me screaming for nearly 10 months until the vaccine wore off. Last few years over winter have taken 2,000iu’s of VD3 a probiotic capsule every day and 1 glass of fresh orange juice – no flu.
PHNTo JoeWhen you got your shot, I hape that the person who gave it to you mentioed that it takes about 2 weeks for your body to build antibodies after the immunization. so no one is protected from the flu in the first days after getting the vaccine. The shot itself ( that we get a clinics here in Canada) does not contain live virus so it CANNOT give you the flu – it may make you feel slightly “flu-like” for a day or two but you would not be infectious – thats just a normal body response to a vaccine.
CyrilHad my first flu shot in 1961 as part of a big Ten university registration process. I’m a believer and will line up again for this year’s version.
jmackAs with everything else you should do what you feel is right for yourself and your family. nothing is for sure. Just be grateful that we live in a country where we are given the option,and even better for free. I had my first flu shot last year and it was the first year with no Flu or Flu like symptoms. so yes I will be getting it!
AnnI rarely never get sick. I never took the flu shot before either. I personally would never take it because I read about the side effects, the preservatives used and how you are more likely to get the sick if you take it. my parents did and they won’t take it again. No thanks.
kg1It works well on healthy people was the comment I heard earlier…really? healthy people.? I thought the vaccine besides for health care workers, people who have compromised immune systmes etc, that it was not a requirement for healthy people. Personally I have not had the fu shot and every time a new strain roles around my body can fight it (like it was meant to do) I also do not go to work if I am sick that way I wont pass it around on the off chance I do get the flu….Besides from what I understand, the flu shot is only good if they guessed the right virus for that flu season otherwise…oh well…
ScepticsBanePerhaps someone would like to ridicule those “absurd” Homeopathic remedies, like the one made from duck liver and tell us to just be obedient and get our flu “shots”. Maybe we need more IMPARTIAL research, and less media attacks and pro vaccine campaigns so we can find out what REALLY works. …And what does NOT.
SILLY SALLYOh If only we could make it mandatory….and had a registry…you know like the gun one.
barbieI have never had a flu shot and his proves to me that I never will .I have worked all through sars and am a retired nurse . Each year when they came around with the shot , I had to sign a waver refusing it .I see ads on the TV telling people to take it because it boosts your immune system . why are people so gulible? It’s the pharmacedical companies getting all the money .
reidjrFredEven if its weaker then thougt you still need to offer if not we could have a very serious issue.
Rev in VC59% for a little stab in the arm….. better than nothing I guess….
PraffI never likes the flue shots, but there is so much push from doctors, school and others without good explanation.
jjayceeI only know that for me, I welcome relief from having a constant round of flu like symptoms from October through April. I do not expect the flu vaccine to keep me totally well, as I realize there is always something new and viril coming back from all corners of the world with Travellers and imported goods and food stuffs.I am just happy to be well for some of the winter.
Fred N.And our government in Ontario pays for the ineffective flu shot. Eliminate the flu shot and eliminate a good chunk of the deficit.
SAMOh, Surprise. I’ve never felt comfortable with the flu vaccine and we’ve probably had less flu at our house than most. The biggest thing is wash your hands, cough/sneeze into your arm and wash even more when you’re in public places touching doorhandles, elevator buttons, railings, handles, phones etc.
Prof. Pye CharttNo surprise. Anecdotal “study” has always yielded this determination. like countless people I know, I’ve been healthier during the winter months when staying away from these overhyped “miracle shots.” our healthcare system is bursting with finger-wagging flu-drug pushers. Lots of matter-of-fact talk in the medical, healthcare, and educational communities; minimal scientific study to back it up.
joe canadaI never got the flu shot my whole life, until two years ago I tried it. I got the flu five days after the shot. I didn’t get the shot last year and was fine. I doubt I will ever get it again.