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Medicine Science

Flu Shot Doing Poor Job of Protecting Older People This Year 205

Posted by Soulskill
from the thanks-geritol dept.
New submitter Gunilla sends this news from an AP report: "It turns out this year's flu shot is doing a startlingly dismal job of protecting older people, the most vulnerable age group. The vaccine is proving only 9 percent effective in those 65 and older against the harsh strain of the flu that is predominant this season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. Health officials are baffled as to why this is so. But the findings help explain why so many older people have been hospitalized with the flu this year. Despite the findings, the CDC stood by its recommendation that everyone over 6 months get flu shots, the elderly included, because some protection is better than none, and because those who are vaccinated and still get sick may suffer less severe symptoms." An anonymous reader adds information about a new drug that treats influenza by hijacking its own infection mechanism. The compound "binds to an enzyme on the surface of the flu virus called neuraminidase. This enzyme is responsible for severing the connection between the flu virus and human cell so it can move on and infect other cells. The new class of drugs — DFSAs — permanently bind to the enzyme, blocking its action and stopping it from spreading further, the journal Science reported (abstract). Currently available antivirals also work by attaching to this enzyme. But DFSAs do so in such a way that the flu virus cannot evolve to be resistant to the drug without rendering itself useless."
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Flu Shot Doing Poor Job of Protecting Older People This Year

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:52PM (#42980981)

    The CDC just keeps shooting themselves in the foot. Admit the problem and QUIT telling everyone to get the flu shot every year. It doesn't work as advertised and should not be relied on a the main defense against the flu.

    - Cochrane Review - Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults
    http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD001269/vaccines-to-prevent-influenza-in-healthy-adults-

    - Dr Lisa Jackson's out of season influenza vaccine research
    http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/35/2/337.short

    Using the proper tools for the job is very important and vaccines work best against stable targets like smallpox. Against the influenza virus it is a total joke. They go to manufacturing in June/July and the flu has 3-6 months to mutate and they wonder why it fails? Give it up. It does not work.

    The more the CDC promotes something that clearly does not work the more people are going to throw out the baby with the bathwater and think that they are lying about all vaccines. Good to hear there are some advances in stopping the flu because the current approach has been a total failure.

    • by hedwards (940851) on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:57PM (#42981067)

      This is a virus, your two main options are to either have people avoid human contact or give them a vaccination. Sure, things like washing hands might help a bit, but ultimately, there aren't a lot of options for something like the flu.

      What's more, you're ignoring the fact that this year it worked for 9% of the people over 65 who got it. That's really not a good number, but it's better than zero and ignores the other people who received the vaccination as well.

      • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday February 22, 2013 @01:06PM (#42981181)

        What's more, you're ignoring the fact that this year it worked for 9% of the people over 65 who got it.

        And YOU are ignoring the increased risk of exposure to flu people have by going to wherever the flu shot is administered.

        That 9% number does not stand in a vacuum. There are many other factors and with that protection number being so low, to me it makes little sense to go somewhere and risk greater exposure to other people from which you would get the flu to begin with.

        • by hedwards (940851) on Friday February 22, 2013 @01:25PM (#42981397)

          No, I'm not ignoring that. If they knew what the efficacy rate was like without administering the injections, that would be a completely different thing. But, you can't sit there with the numbers from the real world and judge the doctors for not having access to them before they even existed.

          I said, that 9% isn't a good number, but pretending like they were giving these shots out knowing that whom they would and would not work for is just plain wrong. You're also assuming that these people are shut ins. If they were shut ins, then there would be no point in vaccinating them as they wouldn't be exposed to the flu in the first place. For the folks that actually go outside, they're already going to be exposed, suggesting that this is represents a greater exposure is just the typical anti-vaccs bullshit.

          • I said, that 9% isn't a good number, but pretending like they were giving these shots out knowing that whom they would and would not work for is just plain wrong.

            That may have been the situation several months back.

            But about the start of January they HAD stats. At that time they did a big publicity blitz, claiming that:
            - This year's flu had a particularly high mortality among seniors,
            - But this year's vaccine was quite effective against it.
            - In particular: It both substantially (th

        • by Shaman (1148)

          +1

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by daem0n1x (748565)

          And YOU are ignoring the increased risk of exposure to flu people have by going to wherever the flu shot is administered.

          And YOU are ignoring the increased risk of exposure to flu people have by going to anywhere where there are people.

        • And YOU are ignoring the increased risk of exposure to flu people have by going to wherever the flu shot is administered.

          The most common vaccinations are now readilly available everywhere people gather.

          Schools, colleges, churches and community centers of every description.

          The supermarket and general merchandise big box retailer like Walmart and Target.

          Rite Aid, Walgreens. and countless other neighborhood drug stores.

          Physician's offices, outpatient clinics, and hospitals.

          Group homes. Nursing homes.

          Etc. Etc. Etc.

        • by hairyfeet (841228)
          Insightful? Really? I take you haven't seen all the flu shot stands in places like the mall and Wally World, you know, where people are gonna go anyway to do their shopping? Its not like you have to go to a doctor's office just to get a flu shot anymore.
      • by sjames (1099)

        Insisting that people stay home when they get the flu (and insisting that employers allow it) would actually reduce the incidence of flu quite a bit.

        Meanwhile, note that 9% effective doesn't mean 9% of the people who jot their jabs avoided the flu. It means that the people who got the jab were 9% less likely to get the flu. So, if 1000 people got the shot and they stood a 10% chance (unvaccinated) of getting the flu, 9 people total avoided getting sick.

        Put another way, By getting the shot, there was a nine

        • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday February 22, 2013 @02:38PM (#42982191)

          Way to ignore the important part of this. For the rest of people it was 50% reduction meaning lots of those oldsters avoided it because others got immunized.

        • Most people have no clue whether they have a mild flu or a bad cold, hell most MD's have no clue either; when was the last time your GP took a blood sample and sent it to the lab to identify whether it really was the flu? Since I started getting my flu shot regularly I just don't seem to get the viral URIs as often or as bad when I do, but by the time I realize that I have some viral thingy going on rather than an allergy flair-up, I've been shedding viruses for several days anyway.

          • by sjames (1099)

            There is a time between becoming contagious and feeling sick, and there's not much to be done about that, but there are still several days when you know you are sick and contagious. Those would be the days to absolutely stay away from people.

            Personally, I do know because when I have the flu, it starts with joint pain even before significant tiredness. From there it will either be mild and I'll feel better within 24 hours, or it can be severe and I'll feel miserable for a few days. The right thing to do is s

        • I have not had the shot (I don't normally get the shot) and so far, I have not gotton sick this year.

          I'm working a contract job, right now, and so I only get paid for the hours I'm there. if I get sick (flu or not) and I stay home, I don't get paid. welcome to the new corporate 'no benes' style of hiring workers ;(

          I'd love it if we had a balance of workers rights or 'fair treatment' but we don't. if I need to earn income, I have to report in.

          fulltime employees are different, but more and more, companies

          • by sjames (1099)

            If you order someone to come in sick (including constructively), you are deliberately exposing everyone in the office to a harmful substance. It's not actually different than ordering workers to stay in the midst of a toxic spill.

            Treat it as such under the law. Penalties go up exponentially if the employee comes face to face with a customer.

            In the absence of that, just make sure to cough on the boss, his desk, his lunch, coffee cup, etc. If he ends up puking his guts out 5 or 6 weeks a year, he should devel

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        It worked for me, I'm 60 and didn't get the flu.

        And I didn't even get a flu shot!

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          Well I got it after the flu shot but frankly it was VERY mild and only lasted a few days, those i know that got it and didn't get the shot were sick as dogs for a couple weeks and felt weak for a couple more. All in all I'd rather have 3 days of low grade fever and just feeling slightly run down over puking in a bucket and feeling like I been hit by a truck for a month.

          Maybe you're different, maybe you are lucky or never work around people, who knows but I have elderly parents that have weak immune syste

          • I haven't bothered getting a flu shot in several years. Whenever I got it I felt like crap for several weeks and tended to get a lot of colds. Several years I got the Flu anyway. With several years of no vaccine, any cases I have gotten I have gotten over with in a few daysand the number of colds I get seems to have gone way down.

            Granted, I do most of my work in jails across several states where the primary concern is Tuberculosis.

            The major problem I find with the flu shot is it gives vaccines a bad n
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        This is a virus, your two main options are to either have people avoid human contact or give them a vaccination. Sure, things like washing hands might help a bit, but ultimately, there aren't a lot of options for something like the flu.

        Sure there are, besides the handwashing (which is vital) there's also those nice little ear-loop masks (Just got a 20pk at Daiso for $1.50, nice for house cleaning, I am allergic to dust) and of course immune system maintenance. We do too little preventative care in this country, not least because most of us have inadequate health care.

      • by slick7 (1703596)

        This is a virus, your two main options are to either have people avoid human contact or give them a vaccination. Sure, things like washing hands might help a bit, but ultimately, there aren't a lot of options for something like the flu.

        What's more, you're ignoring the fact that this year it worked for 9% of the people over 65 who got it. That's really not a good number, but it's better than zero and ignores the other people who received the vaccination as well.

        Government mandated vaccinations are not for curing, but for culling.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday February 22, 2013 @01:01PM (#42981107) Homepage

      Got a better idea, bozo? No? Thought not.

      The influenza vaccines are the best tool that we have. It's a lousy tool, but oh well, play the hand that you're dealt.

      And before somebody goes off on and thinks this is Scary New News, influenza vaccine has ALWAYS sucked on infants and older people. Precisely the people that the virus wreaks the most havoc on and likely for the same reason (poorly developed or worn out immune system). This year's vaccine seems to do particularly poorly on the strain of B that we've been seeing. But you never really know how good or bad the vaccine does in any given year until you can tally up all the statistics and look at previous years (and fudge a few numbers).

      The bigger news is that Tamiflu is really worse than it was made out to be [bmj.com] (which wasn't so hot to begin with). The usual suspects - money and political influence (but I repeat myself).

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by craigminah (1885846)
      No kidding. I'm forced to get the flu shot every year. Right after they squirt it into my nose I thank them, grab a tissue, walk out, and blow my nose. Never been sick with flu like symptoms until this year when I thought I was going to die from mucous clogging my head holes.
    • I ask this question earnestly, as I'm not a biologist/virologist and don't claim to fully understand the mechanisms of infection and transmission.

      That said, under what pressure is the flu virus mutating as to avoid this vaccine? That is, why would a flu virus six months from now produce markedly different antibodies than one today? Certainly, some random chance must factor in, but assuming there's no selection pressure until the time at which the vaccine is deployed, shouldn't the vaccine work as well as it

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hairyfeet (841228)

      I agree they should tell the truth and the WHOLE truth but the simple fact is the ones who got the flu that had the shot (myself included) frankly didn't get all that sick, yes some folks ended up in the hospital but those were the ones that were already weak as hell to begin with, whereas those I saw who got the flu WITHOUT the shot ended up puking like a buzzard and had a hell of a time getting over it.

      So I gotta agree both with the AC and the CDC, they need to tell folks that the shot alone isn't a magic

      • by operagost (62405)
        YOU STILL GOT THE FLU. There is absolutely no evidence that the vaccine helped you. None of any kind. The flu doesn't lay everyone low, even when unvaccinated.
    • The shot is only "9% effective" in the older segment of the population that they claim "needs" it the most. What they really don't want to admit is that a placebo is 21% effective. Might cause a little too much attention to that flu shot.
    • by sessamoid (165542)
      "The preliminary data for senior citizens is less than definitive. It is based on fewer than 300 people scattered among five states." From their own article. n 300 is pretty weak data. I'd say it's almost insignificantly small when we're talking about something as widely used as the influenza vaccine. Maybe they just sampled badly or just got unlucky with their sample, and it's really actually quite effective after all? But it only included 5 states, and who knows how they obtained their sample in that 10%
  • by Kenja (541830) on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:53PM (#42981003)
    I for one got the flu twice, despite having had a shot. Each time I had different symptoms (including hypothermia) and was told it was a different strain of the virus.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      And your point is? They need several months to produce the necessary doses and sometimes they get it wrong or it mutates in a significant way.

      Also, this is a sample set of 2 doses and one person. The one time I got a flu shot, I wound up with basically every side effect except an allergic reaction, and would have been better off without it, but that doesn't mean that it isn't good in terms of herd immunity.

    • Hypothermia isn't a typical Influenza symptom.

      If you didn't get a nasal swab for Influenza then you probably didn't have influenza - clinical diagnoses just aren't very accurate (about 50% even in the face of an epidemic).

      But you can get infected by more than one strain of influenza. Would be rather unusual, but it's possible.

      Sucks to be you, I suppose.

    • I am recovering from what may be the flu right now. Or it may be just the common cold, I don't know. But it's really no big deal. Feel lousy for a day or 2, bookended by a few more days of annoying congestion and sneezing, and that's it. On the worst day, my gums were tender, my nose was flowing, and I felt tired and had sore muscles all over as if I'd done too much exercise. Used to get a flu strain every year as a child. Those always seemed to be stomach bugs that made you vomit, which is worse than

      • That ain't flu you wuss.

        Flu will kick your ass for a few days, and when it finally passes, you'll be wrung out and without energy for at least that same amount of days again. Flu means thoughts like "kill me" seem reasonable, and getting up to go to the bathroom seems like a 10 mile hike up K2.

        That's the flu, what you had was just a cold.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Used to get a flu strain every year as a child. Those always seemed to be stomach bugs that made you vomit

        That wasn't the flu, it was a stomach bug of some kind; norovirus, salmonella, etc. Influenza is a respiratory disease. The only time flu makes you puke is when you cough so hard and uncontrollably that the coughing triggers the vomiting. If you don't have a deep, wet cough with a fever and chills, you don't have the flu.

        • by HiThere (15173)

          Influenze comes in many forms. Many of them are respiratory, but I remember years when there was the "G.I. flu". Some of them were quite impressive. And it wasn't salmonella. I can't say as certainly that it wasn't norovirus, as I don't know what that is, but I do know that both the newspapers and the doctors called it the flu.

          OTOH, nobody did a genetic sequencing of it, so maybe everyone was wrong. Or maybe the terminology has changed. Or maybe....

          But my guess is that it really was the flu, and you'r

  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday February 22, 2013 @01:05PM (#42981167) Homepage Journal

    With homeopathy, there is no need to test the results of taking a substance, putting it in water, then constantly diluting the amount of that substance in the water until there is only one molecule of that substance left in the water. Because water has such great memory, it "remembers" the powerful healing abilities of the substance while completely forgetting all the urine, feces, saliva and other bodily fluids the water has come in contact with.

    Because of this miraculous memory, that one molecule has more healing and restorative powers than the most powerful, science-based vaccines, vaccines which do nothing except make people sick and keep big pharma rolling in the money like they do for afflictions such as smallpox, rinderpest and polio.

    Unlike traditional science-based vaccines, homeopathic medicines can be done in the safety of your own home. No need to get doctors involved with their 8-10 years of medical training and untold hours of visiting patients, doing research and consulting with other so-called "medical experts". One can dispense with such safety protocols because no matter what, homeopathic medicines have been rigorously tested under the most stringent conditions including having a crystal suspended above them while the dilution occurs.

    Not once has any side effect ever occurred from taking a homeopathic medicine. That one molecule in the water won't let it happen because of the exponential power it has from being the sole piece left of the original substance.

    So do yourself a favor and pass on traditional vaccines and medicines. Homeopathic cures are the wave of the future, able to solve the world's medical ills in a single glass of water. It's only because the medical community doesn't want you to take matters into your own hands bypass the time-tested methods of science-based medical trials that homeopathy has such a bad rap.

    Ignore the naysayers, the ones whose ills have been cured by Western medicine, they're just anomalies. Homeopathy is where it's at.

    • by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday February 22, 2013 @01:24PM (#42981385) Homepage Journal

      Either I touched a nerve with the homeopathic community or the mods don't understand the subtlety of sarcasm.

      • No subtle sarcasm allowed here. Sorry. Requires too much thought, common sense and reading comprehension.

        You might try it on /b/, I heard they're quite a notch up on typical Slashdotters.

      • by femtobyte (710429) on Friday February 22, 2013 @01:57PM (#42981747)

        Well, you clearly understand nothing about homeopathy. You think it's about diluting until there is "only one molecule of that substance left in the water." But, at proper homeopathic dilutions of 10^100:1 (100 10x dilutions), you wouldn't have one molecule left among all the other matter in the universe. No wonder homeopathy gets a bad reputation, when quacks are handing out dangerously under-diluted mixtures with an entire molecule remaining --- that'll screw up all the imprinted energy resonances!

        • Yes, I know what homeopathy is really about. I decided to do the one molecule part to show how absurd it is rather than trying to come up with a good example of how many millions of gallons one would have to go through to find that one molecule after the dilution.

          I'm still waiting for the homeopath folks to tell me how wrong I am about the description, that they don't use crystals.

          • by femtobyte (710429)

            I personally think that the only notion more absurd than "one molecule to cure your ills" is "zero molecules to cure your ills." Any weakly plausible babble about bodily reactions to extremely low concentrations of biologically active materials is rendered in its full absurdist glory when the claims persist at concentrations of 0.

            Of course, this is all a conspiracy to obscure knowledge of the true homeopathic elixer of immortality: humble tap water. Thanks to Gaia's hydrological cycles, here you can find th

      • Well, your sarcasm wasn't all the subtle, or well written. It pretty much deserves to be moderated into oblivion.

      • Either I touched a nerve with the homeopathic community or the mods don't understand the subtlety of sarcasm.

        They're homeopathic mods, and they actually genuinely liked your comment. It's just that they think they need to dilute its score to increase its rating. This kind of confusion is common in their community. (Withdrawing all but a penny from their bank account so it'll earn interest faster. Licking a steak and then throwing it out so they won't have to eat for the rest of the week. Doing one r

    • by Daetrin (576516)

      That one molecule in the water won't let it happen because of the exponential power it has from being the sole piece left of the original substance.

      So what you're saying is that molecules are ninja, and thus must obey the Conservation of Ninjutsu [tvtropes.org] law.

    • by rwyoder (759998)

      I don't have any mod points today, else I would have mod'ed you up!

  • Should we could keep this up until population-leveling killer flu strains evolve? That would be fun!

    Or should we just stop now and deal with our little flu bouts like grown-ups? Nah, that's no fun. We'd miss all the media coverage on TPC - The Pandemic Channel!

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      Or should we just stop now and deal with our little flu bouts like grown-ups?

      Considering it kills 24,000 people a year in the US, I'm not sure I'd characterize it as a "little bout" that you can just "deal with like a grown-up".

      • by sjames (1099)

        Not to belittle the lives lost, but traffic accidents cause about twice as many deaths annually. Mandatory telecommuting would put a huge dent in that figure but it isn't happening for some reason.

        • by blueg3 (192743)

          I agree; automobile accidents are one place where relatively cheap changes could save a lot of lives. It's not an either-or situation, though.

          • by sjames (1099)

            No, but it does reveal a bit about priorities.

            It's also notable that more telecommuting would put a dent in the flu as well. A couple years ago when the fear mongering was at a high froth, not once did any authority suggest avoiding crowded malls.

            It seems that inconveniencing employers = no way. Denting holiday shopping = no way. Having the peons spend some bux for a barely effective vaccination = GOTTA DO IT!

            • by blueg3 (192743)

              It's not "barely effective". The stated 9% is only for one strain in one population group that historically doesn't see as much benefit from the flu vaccine. The effectiveness in the general population this year -- which is a bit worse than average -- is over 50%.

              • by sjames (1099)

                It is barely effective in that sub-population and it is only moderately effective in the general population.

                Compare to the vaccines that are 90% effective over a period of decades. Those are a good idea.

    • To the virulent detractors of my parent post:

      a) everything mutates, ergo this argument is moot
      b) n the case where vaccines are voluntary, and not administered to the population as a whole, they do promote resistant strains. See http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=vaccine-resistant+strain&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart&sa=X&ei=57YnUeTYNITc8wTl9IDQCg&ved=0CDEQgQMwAA [google.com]
      c) "retarded" is a relative assessment. Compared to what?

  • Just how much money is being spent on flu shots each year? At 9% effectiveness, is the value for dollar really there?

    At some point the CDC has to fess up to reality - their preferred method of telling everyone to get a shot that doesn't work isn't a good idea. The longer they try to pretend it is, the more money will be wasted and the more people will be convinced that the CDC is full of shit.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by blueg3 (192743)

      It's 9% effectiveness against one of the strains in one age group. It's 56% effective in general. This year's effectiveness is particularly low relative to other years, so isn't representative of "value for dollar", which should use effectiveness averaged across multiple years.

      Very rough back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the cost of saving lives through flu vaccines is on the order of a few tens of thousands of dollars per life. By insurance calculation standards, that makes it worthwhile.

    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday February 22, 2013 @03:00PM (#42982513) Journal

      I actually considered this once. I don't pay anything directly because it's a "covered" item in my health plan, but I would pay $25 out of pocket if I got one. So here goes:

      When I was younger - in my 20s& 30s I got a flu - or flu-like symptoms requiring I miss work for 3 or more days - four times. I started getting the flu vaccine about 8 years ago, and I haven't had the flu for about 11 or 12 years.

      Let's say my typical chance is once every 5 years. (4x in 20 years). If I were only to get the flu once every 10 years (56% effective in my target age group), that means that, on average I will miss 3 days less of work in 10 years. I'm a consultant, so I bill $150/hr, and I get nothing if I don't work. Whether I show up at the office or not, I pay for rent, electricity, licensing, insurance, etc. So...3 days at 6 billable hours in a typical day is $2700 is lost income (note I'm not counting the 3-4 hours of admin time a day, which is all rolled into those billable hours). $2700 a year over ten years is $270 a year, or an 11:1 payback on my "investment" of $25. As a bonus, I don't end up paying for a doctors visit, or for medications, or for the general crappiness I feel, or take the chance that my wife and daughter are then more likely to get it as well. Break even, without medication costs and such, would be around $13.60/hr.

      If it were the worst case of 9% if I were over 65 and still working, then we're really talking statistical, but that would mean a theoretical reduction of 18 hrs/5yrs*9% = $49 a year return on a $25 flu shot, plus the above associated effects and medical costs, and the chance of dying from the flu because I'm just old and more likely to get a secondary infection.

  • "I got the Flu shot and I had a Flu for 72 hours!" or "it only works 9% of the time? Big Pharm SUCKS!" Sorry to hear that your 80 year-old grandma had a fever after getting a flu shot. but people take too much stuff for granted.

    It was not that long ago that the Spanish Flu [wikipedia.org] wiped out millions of people. If want something more recent visit Africa. They only had 550,000+ deaths for malaria [nydailynews.com].

    If you something worth while, post it. Otherwise people don't care you got a flu shot and got sick anyways; stuff happ

  • Yes, administering flu vaccines to seniors is of little use. We know this. Their immune systems aren't able to mount an effective response to the vaccine and develop proper immunity.

    What you need to do is vaccinate everyone around them (Families, caregivers, etc.) and protect them via herd immunity.

  • One of the reasons I don't get flu vaccine is because I expect the corporations to give you last years stock (which is no good for the current year) because it's cheaper then making new stuff.

    The other reason I don't get flu vaccines is I don't catch the flu. Probably because I have NEVER gotten a vaccine to begin with.

  • that if you are in an age range in which the flu vaccine is more effective, it is your civic duty to get one so you lower your chances of passing the flu onto those with which vaccines are less effective.

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