2015/2016 Flu Shot is a Good Idea
For the first time, Canada is providing flu vaccines providing protection against four strains of the virus. Previous versions had only three strains. Our 2015 flu shot protects against:
- A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
- A/Switzerland/9715293/2013 (H3N2)-like virus
- B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus
- B strain – a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus
By most accounts the flu vaccine for 2015/2016 is not as efficacious as hoped, but getting it is still better than not getting it. Early data suggests that the vaccine effectiveness (VE) will be around 40-50%. Expressed as a percentage, VE represents the reduction in the risk that a person will need to visit a hospital or doctor’s office because of the flu. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) is reporting an overall VE of 23% for North America. Even if the VE turns out to be on the low side it still means that 23% fewer of us will need medical care because of the flu and that’s nothing to sneeze at. According to Health Canada, seasonal flu results in approximately 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in our country every year. A 23% reduction means over 800 lives saved and thousands more avoiding the emergency room.
For some reason a January 2015 news item with misleading headlines about the low VE of the 2014 vaccine has been circulating again, perhaps in an effort to discredit the 2015 shot. One headline implied that the 2014 vaccine made it “more likely” that you would get the flu. What they should have said was that it was slightly less effective than the previous year’s formulation, not less effective than going vaccine-free. One of the most reported studies found that the VE for one of the 2014 flu vaccines offered in Canada was 69% if you had not had the vaccine in 2013 but only 65% if you had been vaccinated for both years. In other words, it was slightly more likely that you would get the flu in 2014 if you had vaccinations two years in a row, but the risk reduction was still 65% over no vaccine at all. So either way, you were much better off getting the shot in 2014.
Official reports of the 2014/2015 vaccine’s VE varied widely across North America. Since the strains to be included in the vaccine are chosen months ahead of the flu season, sometimes there is a mismatch between the vaccine strains and the ones that end up circulating in Canada, varying from region to region. Occasionally the strains mutate enough that the effectiveness of the vaccine is lessened. Health Canada also attributes some of the overall VE drop to a problem with stability of the A/California H1N1 vaccine strain when exposed to temperature fluctuations. This happened mostly in California where the vaccines were subjected to heat that rendered them less effective. The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations concluded that this is unlikely to be a problem in Canada because we have requirements for the maintenance of proper temperatures at all times. Monitoring devices or carrier logs are required to provide evidence that proper conditions were maintained.
Along with handwashing and plumbing, vaccines are among the safest, most important medical advances of all time and they are offered free or almost free to all Canadians. We should take full advantage of it.
Blythe Nilson, CFIC Science Chair
- Health Canada: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/naci-ccni/flu-2015-grippe-eng.php#i1
- CDC 2015-2016 Flu Vaccines: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2015-2016.htm
- CDC Vaccine FAQ: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/vaccineeffect.htm
- U. Manitoba Report: http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2014/11/study-adds-more-data-effects-consecutive-year-flu-shots
- Pro-Vaccination Art
- Are Organized Religions a Possible Public Health Hazard “Vector”? Apparently we have our job to do…
- From the Cradle to the Grave
- Vaccine records – Who’s responsible?
- Canada’s Standing Committee on Health (HESA): Report 13
- CFI Condemns Murders at Charlie Hebdo
- International Women’s Day
- Will You Make a Commitment to Reason and Science Today?
- CFIDiscourse #2: On Pseudo-skepticism and the Vice of Open-Mindedness
- CFIC Condemns Superstition-based Violence
- Atheist Bloggers Risking Their Lives
- James Randi in Toronto!
- CFIC Discourse
- US to tighten rules on homeopathic “medicines”
- Unfriending the Future: Motivated Empathy in Science and Political Advocacy
- Timothy Caulfield coming to Ottawa
- Secular, Humanist and Freethought Links
- Supreme Court Decision
- CFIC Library needs your help!
- In the year 2018, we should not have to say this.
- CFIC Bylaws
- CFIC’s Ethical Perspectives
- CFI Canada Student Campus Groups
- CFIDiscourse #1: A Christian in Favour of Atheist Billboards
- HUMAN RIGHTS
- Support Secularism in British Columbia
- Canada’s Blasphemous Libel Law
- Update on Parliamentary Petition e-382 calling for the elimnation of Canada’s anti-blasphemy law
- Assisted Dying in Canada: Where Do We Go From Here
- CFI Magazines
- Spoon Bending and Higher Learning
- A Call for Justice
- Raif Badawi
- Another Pediatric Death by World View
- Charlie Hebdo and the Question of Blasphemy
- CFIC’s founding principles
- Catholic School Board Breaking the Law, Complaint Alleges
- Secular Humanists and Atheists Grieve With the Nation
- Become a Member of CFIC
- New CFIC Logo Designs
- CFI Canada Condemns All Faith-Based Violence
- Canada Deserves Better Than Pope John Paul II Day
- Spring is late – deadline extended for the Colouring Contest
- CFIC’s Mission, Vision, and Values
- CFI Manitoba
- Iceland Removes Blasphemy Law!
- Governance Documents
- CFI Canada at the Office of Religious Freedom’s EAC
- Crisis in Nepal: What can we do?
- Is God a Figment of our Imagination?
- Canada is Repealing its Blasphemy Law
- 2016 CFIC AGM and Elections Notice
- Secular Community Services
- CFI Membership
- Who is CFIC, and what do we do?
- Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom
- Secular Human Rights Campaigns