With the flu spreading like wildfire this year, you probably know someone who’s gotten sick. You might have caught the virus yourself. Have you gotten a flu shot yet? It’s not too late since the CDC is predicting it will be around until May.
If you thought this flu season was particularly bad, you’re not alone. Have you considered why? Get this; eggs might be responsible.
Studies from Australia and Canada say this year’s vaccine is as little as 10% effective; all this depends on the age of the recipient. The appropriate age is working adults from 24-64. It gets slightly better if you include the entire population; but not by much only to 17%.
How do eggs play into the equation? To create a flu vaccine, you have to grow a virus. A strain is injected into fertilized chicken eggs where it can develop. The specific strain is incubated and harvested.
Scientists have used this method for producing vaccines for around 70 years. It’s cheap. Once collected, the virus is killed or purified before being added to vaccines.
The effectiveness of a vaccine depends on which strain of influenza is circulating on a global scale annually. This year, it’s the H3N2 which is part of the influenza A virus. This strain mutates at a higher rate than other strains. All flu strains mutate, but H3N2 adapts to its environment much easier than the others, and it changes while it does so.
Eggs can’t alone be blamed for an unsuccessful vaccine. Forbes says it takes five to six months to produce a batch of vaccine. Flu experts have to predict in February what strains of the virus could start circulating in October. It’s a guessing game; all be it an educated one.
Health experts in the U.S. use data from Australia and other parts of the world to put together the best statistical information to develop the best vaccine for the following flu season. Of course, a vaccine won’t work if a different strain takes hold than the one experts prepared for.
The widespread flu strain changes as the season progresses. The vaccine might be either more or less effective depending on age group. The strain might not be as bad in one location, but much worse by the time it migrates elsewhere.
So if this year’s flu vaccine is so ineffective, why get it? Why not? It’s better to have some protection than none at all. The virus is everywhere; this season is going to last longer than average. Plus, getting the vaccine will help protect the most vulnerable of people – children and the elderly.
Better late than never I say. I got my flu shot. Have you gotten yours?