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"Flu vaccine doing poor job of protecting older people; CDC stands by shots for those over 65"

Life's little ironies:

It turns out this year’s flu shot is doing a startlingly dismal job of protecting older people, the most vulnerable age group.

The vaccine is proving only 9 percent effective in those 65 and older against the harsh strain of the flu that is predominant this season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

Health officials are baffled as to why this is so. But the findings help explain why so many older people have been hospitalized with the flu this year.

Despite the findings, the CDC stood by its recommendation that everyone over 6 months get flu shots, the elderly included, because some protection is better than none, and because those who are vaccinated and still get sick may suffer less severe symptoms.

“Year in and year out, the vaccine is the best protection we have,” said CDC flu expert Dr. Joseph Bresee.

Overall, across the age groups studied, the vaccine’s effectiveness was found to be a moderate 56 percent, which means those who got a shot have a 56 percent lower chance of winding up at the doctor with the flu. That is somewhat worse than what has been seen in other years.

I can't help but think wonder whether social isolation has anything to do with this. I ultimately did not get vaccinated, as in past years, not really on principle, but on poverty, lack of time, and general cussedness (and I'm not in the anti-vax crusader camp at all). So far -- pace Atrios -- I haven't gotten sick. However, during the time when the flu virus was incubating, I was out in the general population a lot -- in Internet cafes, on the bus, at the university, so I must have been exposed multiple times. I wonder if, to some extent, the vaccination is attempting to compensate for social isolation in elders?

Comments

Submitted by jawbone on

my relatives in Wisconsin, I invariably get some kind of cold or minor ailment. It's become something of a joke. No betting lines as of yet, that I know of, on how soon I'll be likely to come down with something.

This past Christmas, with the mass exposure to the kinder on Christmas Day (while also being exhausted from finishing yard clearn up, preparing for the trip, and long drive out), a Tuesday, I got a bad cold beginning on Friday afternoon.

Got over that, more family gatherings, and first my brother's wife got what was probably the Norovirus going around, then I got it and was miserable for quite awhile.

I thought I might be OK this year, since I'd spent so much time in a hospitals and then the nursing home, but it didn't seem to help. I did come down with a cold in September,
which ended up costing my friend almost $200. Since I couldn't dirve him to the hospital for scans, as I was not allowed to be near him while I might communicate the cold (since he was not able to swallow at that time, a cold could be difficult, even dangerous for him), he was sent in an ambulette, for a round trip of about 3 miles; not covered by insurance.

I figure just being around the dear little petrie dishes that kids are make getting something almost guaranteed. For the most part, most of friends don't have kids and aren't around them much.

Also, while the flu vaccine was predicted to cover this year's flu strain, the strain was more virulent that expected.

I began getting the flu shot back in the 90's, when I'd spend 3-4 weeks getting over a bad cold, have a few days off, then get another one. For whatever reason, the flu vaccines have helped lessen the number of colds, etc., I get.

Temporal relationship is clear, but causal is not....

Submitted by jawbone on

Still somewhat painful. I will write more when I have more perspective -- and no legal obligations.

In all fairness, I imagine there's a set fee for a any mileage under, say, 10 miles, but had I been well I could have saved that cost. But when docs order something, hospital personnel jump to get it done. He also couldn't remember that I was home sick and had his phone service turned on to try to reach me, for about $124 for about one week. He couldn't remember how to use his cell phone.

Sad situation.