Flu Vaccine Going Strong; This Year's Flu Vaccine Is on Pace to Be among the Most Efficient on Record, According to Estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Derived Headline]

By Schmitt, Ben | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 25, 2016 | Go to article overview

Flu Vaccine Going Strong; This Year's Flu Vaccine Is on Pace to Be among the Most Efficient on Record, According to Estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Derived Headline]


Schmitt, Ben, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


This year's flu vaccine is on pace to be among the most efficient on record, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaccine recipients in the United States were 59 percent less likely to contract influenza compared to those who did not receive the vaccine, the CDC said.

Last year's flu vaccine was only 23 percent effective. Over the past decade, the vaccine performed better only in 2010, when it was 60 percent effective.

The statistics coincide with what has been an overall mild flu season nationwide. About 40 percent of Americans received flu vaccinations by November, the CDC said.

"The data is confirming that this year's vaccine is well-matched to the flu viruses," said Dr. Marc Itskowitz, a primary care specialist at Allegheny Health Network. "This is generally good news."

Last season's flu vaccine was less effective because many of the influenza viruses in the United States had mutated and did not match the vaccine, Itskowitz said.

The numbers behind the vaccine estimates have a strong Pittsburgh connection. Dr. Richard Zimmerman, professor of family medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Graduate School of Public Health, runs the Pittsburgh arm of a group that studies flu vaccine effectiveness for the CDC.

UPMC and Pitt's School of Health Science are part of the U.S. Flu Vaccine Effectiveness Network, which collects data for the CDC from people who visit doctor's offices or hospitals with flu-like symptoms. Patients who have received the flu vaccine are compared to those who are not vaccinated.

"We got the vaccine match right this year, which is really nice," Zimmerman said.

There have been 3,125 influenza cases statewide this season, which began in October, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. By late-February last year, the state had more than 45,000 cases.

Wes Culp, a department spokesman, pointed out the state reports only infections confirmed by laboratory tests. …

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