Each year scientists develop a flu vaccine that’s their best guess about what strain of the virus will circulate the following year.Sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong.
Even on a good year, the overall efficacy of an influenza vaccine is about 60%.So even though it is always better to get vaccinated against influenza than it is not to get vaccinated.No doubt about that---we need to get a better vaccine.
Several years ago, the flu vaccines effectiveness was a dismal 10%,other vaccines like those form measles and yellow fever are almost completely effective and 90% of those vaccinated for polio are protected from the disease.
Even those who make flu vaccines are dissatisfied. The disease we’re trying to prevent is very prevalent.Up to 20% of us will have an influenza infection during the course of a year.Better treatment now exists for complications from the flu like pneumonia but doctors are concerned that we are vulnerable for a deadly pandemic like the one in 1918 that killed 50 million people worldwide.Despite all the medical advances in the past 100 years, could something like that happen again?
Certainly we’ve had a flu pandemic in 2009, the H1N1 swine flu that was not a serious epidemic in the sense of a lot of deaths.It was a pandemic to be sure because it was a relatively new virus. There was widespread infection throughout the world.
There is a part of the influenza virus that does not change from year to year,so researchers have a sense of urgency in developing a universal vaccine that targets that part of the virus.
Most influenza deaths occur in developing countries and very few vaccinations occur there.Until the universal influenza vaccine is available, more lives can be saved if more people start getting the imperfect seasonal flu vaccine.Not only can this prevent the spread of the virus but it lowers the risk of a deadly pandemic like the one in 1918.
Carol Pearson, VOA News, Washington.