Flu vaccine is not as effective as public health messaging traditionally has claimed, says a new report that suggests overselling of flu shots is getting in the way of developing more effective and longer lasting vaccines.
Existing flu shots offer moderate protection some years and less in others and in general are "sub-optimal," according to the report, from public health experts at the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
"Our current influenza vaccines work for some of the people some of the time. And we clearly need vaccines that work for most of the people most of the time," Dr. Michael Oster-holm, director of the centre, said in an interview Monday.
While the report strongly urges the development of "game-changing" vaccines, it said in the meantime people should use the tool that exists. "We recommend you continue to get your flu shot. It's the best protection we have. But it's not enough," Oster-holm said.
He is first author of the report, which is the product of a three-year investigation into the science supporting flu vaccine efficacy and safety and the decision-making processes that led to the U.S. policy to recommend all Americans get a flu shot every year.
The project that led to the report involved mining more than 12,000 documents, articles and meeting transcripts as well as more than 5,700 peer-reviewed vaccine studies published from 1936 through 2012.
In recent years studies by a variety of research groups - including in Canada - have shown that the long-quoted claims that flu shots offered 70 to 90 per cent protection against influenza have been off the mark.
Somewhere in the order of 50 to 60 per cent, in healthy adults, is more accurate, the newer studies suggest.
In Canada, spending on flu vaccine programs likely exceed $100 million per year, said Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an influenza expert at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control
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