How effective is the flu shot and why is the nasal vaccine no longer an option?

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Every year the Center for Disease Control (CDC) encourages you to get the flu vaccine but how effective is it really?

The CDC estimates that thousands, or ten of thousands, of people die every year from flu related causes.

The flu shot itself contains a sort of guess about which strains of flu might circulate during the flu season which covers as early as October and as late as May. But they don't always get it correct.

Dr. Amy Edwards is a is the Associate Medial Director of Pediatric Infection Control for Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital. According to Dr. Edwards, how effective the flu shot is varies from year to year.

"We often don't know how effective it is until near the end of the flu season when we can see how closely what is circulating matches what was chosen for the vaccine," Dr. Edwards explained. "It is also highly dependent on the individual patient. So a healthy person, with a good immune system is going to have a stronger response to the vaccine and thus be better protected. That is one of the reasons we offer a higher dose vaccine to older people is to try and get a stronger response. If you want numbers, generally speaking we say that in healthy children and adults it is 70 percent effective with a range of 50-95 percent depending on the closeness of vaccine strain match to wild strain."

In the past, for those afraid of needles, The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) would offer a nasal spray form of the vaccine but not any longer. The FDA is trying to figure out why the spray is no longer effective against the common flu strains that often circulate. The FDA has not endorsed the nasal spray for the past two seasons.

"In clinical trials it looked as good or even better than the flu shot, however, once it was introduced into the general population it turned out to be less effective which is why the FDA pulled it," said Edwards.

Even if you suffer from trypanophobia (fear of needles) you really should get the flu shot.

."Year after year, research shows us that people who get the flu shot are less likely to get influenza, and if they do get influenza they are less likely to need to be hospitalized," Edwards said.

"In children, specifically, children who get the flu shot are less likely to need to be admitted to the Pediatric ICU and are less likely to die. This is the same in people over 60. It can keep you out of the hospital and out of the ICU even if it doesn't protect you 100 pecent from catching influenza.," he said.

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