Flu vaccine is just 39% effective in high-risk adults

Flu vaccine is just 39% effective in high-risk adults: Figures reveal jab does little to protect those with asthma, angina or liver disease who are up to 48 TIMES more likely to die of the virus

  • Nasal spray flu vaccine is 87% effective in children aged between two and 17
  • But jab is vastly less powerful when given to high-risk adults aged 18-to-64
  • Data on the vaccine’s effectiveness among the over 65s is unavailable 
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The flu vaccine is more effective in children than in adults, data suggests.

Mid-season figures released by Public Health England (PHE) reveal the nasal spray vaccine is 87 per cent effective in children aged two-to-17 against the main circulating flu strain.

Youngsters are ‘super spreaders’ of flu and therefore protecting them is ‘critical’ to keeping the virus at bay, the Government agency said.

But the vaccine is just 39 per cent effective against the same strain (influenza A (H1N1) pmd09) in high-risk adults aged 18-to-64. 

These include people with chronic heart disease, asthma or liver disease, who are up to 48 times more likely to die if they catch flu. 


The flu vaccine is more effective in children than in adults, data suggests (stock)

In terms of who is most at risk, people who chronic liver disease are 48 times more likely to die of flu if they become infected, according to PHE.

And those with chronic heart disease, angina or a history of stroke are 11 times more at risk than a healthy person.

The risk is seven times higher in those with respiratory diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma.

Data on the vaccine’s effectiveness among the over 65s will not be available until the end of the season.  

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Figures further reveal more children than ever have been vaccinated against flu so far this season.

The spray has been offered to youngsters in year five for the first time, meaning all children aged nine-to-12 are now eligible for the vaccine. 

Some 43 per cent of two-year-olds and 45.2 per cent of three-year-olds have been vaccinated.

Among school-aged children, between 56 and 64 per cent have had the vaccine depending on the year group.

HOW DOES THIS FLU OUTBREAK COMPARE TO THOSE IN THE PAST SIX YEARS? 

CONFIRMED DEATHS IN INTENSIVE CARE

YEAR

2018-19

2017-18

2016-17

2015-16

2014-15

2013-14 

WEEK 03 

21

17

11

6

8

OVERALL

68

120

45

19

51

ADMISSIONS TO INTENSIVE CARE 

YEAR

2018-19

2017-18

2016-17

2015-16

2014-15

2013-14 

WEEK 03 

237

198

82

59

85

21 

OVERALL

932

952

456

296

541

103 

Although encouraging, health officials warn more needs to be done.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: ‘It is encouraging to see this year’s vaccines are offering a high level of protection against the main circulating strain of flu – particularly for children.

‘Children tend to be “super spreaders” of flu and so protecting them is crucial for protecting the rest of the population.

‘We’re pleased more parents have been taking up the offer of vaccination for their children and encourage anyone who is eligible to do so every winter.

‘It’s the best defence we have against this unpredictable virus.’  

Data is also not available on the newly-introduced ‘quadrivalent’ injection, which was offered to at-risk people aged 18-to-64 and protects against four strains of flu. 

Information on the vaccine’s effectiveness against influenza B is also unavailable due to these strains not circulating widely this season. 

Last year’s final figures for the whole 2017/18 flu season showed the vaccine was just 15 per cent effective across all age groups.

This included an effectiveness of about 27 per cent in children aged two-to-17, 12 per cent among people in at-risk groups aged 18-to-64, and 10 per cent in those aged 65 and over. 

For the latest flu season, a new ‘booster’ vaccine has been brought in to improve effectiveness among the over-65s. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: ‘The most basic instinct for any parent is to do whatever they can to protect their child. 

‘Vaccinations save countless lives and are absolutely vital.

‘More children have been vaccinated this year to protect against flu and it is a positive sign that the vaccine itself appears to be more effective than in previous years.

‘Our world-leading vaccination programme saves lives and I urge all parents of young children to make sure their child is vaccinated against flu and other childhood diseases.’

THE FLU SEASON OF 2017/18 AND WHY IT WAS SO SEVERE

The rocketing number of flu cases in the UK and across the world was put down to a surge in four aggressive subtypes that attacked the population simultaneously.

One included the so-called ‘Aussie flu’, a strain of influenza A which triggered triple the number of expected cases in Australia during the country’s winter.

Experts feared the virulent H3N2 strain, which reached the UK, could prove as deadly to humanity as the Hong Kong flu in 1968, which killed one million people.

Another was a strain of influenza B, called Yamagata and dubbed ‘Japanese flu’, which was blamed for the majority of cases during the UK’s winter.

Its rapid spread raised concerns because it was not covered in a vaccine given to the elderly. However, experts claim it was less severe.

Usually, just one subtype, of either influenza A or B, is responsible for the majority of cases. The bug spreads easily in the cold weather. 

 

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