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Less effective flu vaccine is not 'useless'

Less effective flu vaccine is not 'useless'

Posted 2/18/2015

Irresponsible and inaccurate headlines across the UK are endangering lives, say the NHS.

Mutation of the most predominant strain of the virus circulating this year means that the corresponding strain in the vaccine does not match and, overall, is only about 3% effective. But even this 3% could be important to groups at risk of the flu.

Unfortunately, the response of the media has been overwhelmingly negative, with some outlets even suggesting that the vaccine is to blame for this year's flu deaths. At best, media reports say the vaccine is useless, potentially putting people off from receving it and putting vulnerable lives at risk.

But the NHS and Public Health England (PHE) have fought back. The vaccine protects against 3 other strains of the flu, even though these are not the most common this year, and it remains the best overall protection from the virus. Good hand hygiene can also help prevent tranmission.

Flu is an unpredictable virus which can cause severe illness or death in at-risk groups, including older people, pregnant women and those with an existing health condition.

If you have flu symptoms and are in a high risk group, it is important to see a doctor as early use of antivirals can successfully treat serious cases of flu. With the vaccine being less effective this season, early action is even more important.

Work is already underway on the next vaccine and it is hoped that it's effectiveness will be back up to the historic level of 50%.