Influenza: the current flu vaccine 50% effective

Influenza: the current flu vaccine 50% effective

The current influenza vaccine would reduce the risk of contracting the virus by almost half, according to preliminary scientific data.

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The effectiveness of the flu vaccine, offered free of charge this year, would reduce by almost 50% the risk of contracting and developing complications related to the disease in immunized people, compared to those who are not.

“Pretty good”

Although the flu season is not yet over, Gaston De Serres, a medical epidemiologist at the National Institute of Public Health in Quebec, says this rate of effectiveness is “pretty good”.

“When we compare that with the effectiveness of other vaccines, it is not very high, but for this vaccine, we often have figures well below 50%”, he underlines.

In 2019-2020, this rate was 53%. However, no data is available for last year, since the virus has become rather rare, while the population was confined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, the vaccine effectiveness rate was 44% in 2016-2017, and 37% in 2017-2018.

An “old” vaccine

“These are vaccines that are manufactured with technology from the 1940s. There have been small improvements made in recent years, but it remains very marginal,” explains Mr. De Serres, adding that the company Pfizer-BioNTech is working to create a better flu vaccine, but the results are still pending.

Early season

The current influenza season started much earlier than usual, at the end of November, while the peaks of contagion are normally at the end of December, or at the beginning of of January.

As is the case every year, influenza A was first observed. At the height of the contagion, more than 3,340 cases were recorded in Quebec.

Currently, type A influenza is in sharp decline in Quebec, while type B should rise again in the coming weeks. “There are seasons when type B can reach numbers similar to A, but most of the time it is less abundant than A,” explains De Serres.

Vaccination coverage

As of January 15, 21% of the population has been vaccinated against the flu in Quebec, according to data from the Ministry of Health and Social Services.

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