This year's flu vaccine more effective than in last 2 years, CDC says

That figure is said to be within an expected range.

February 14, 2019, 1:30 PM

The flu vaccine is more effective this year than the past two years, according to new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported Thursday that the flu vaccine is proving 47 percent effective in preventing the strains of the flu that are most prevalent this year.

That number marks a distinct uptick from the past two flu seasons when it was 40 percent effective each year.

"Overall, 47 percent tells us that the vaccine is working. It's encouraging. It's reassuring that the vaccine is doing its job," said Dr. Joshua Doyle, an epidemic intelligence service officer in the CDC's Flu Division.

While the number may appear low to some, Doyle said it's well within the standard range for how effective a vaccine is on any given year. He said that a "typical range" of effectiveness for the flu vaccine is between 40 and 60 percent.

According to CDC data, there has only been one season in the last 14 years -- the 2010-2011 season -- where the vaccine was 60 percent effective.

Doyle said that it's a common misconception that the vaccine effectiveness level suggests that someone has a close to 50-50 chance of getting the flu whether or not they get vaccinated. Instead, he stressed that "people who are vaccinated get the flu 47 percent less than people who are not vaccinated."

A woman receives a flu shot at a Walgreens phramacy, Jan. 22, 2018, in San Francisco, Calif.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

He said the 2017-2018 flu season was "so severe," with 79,000 deaths.

The CDC estimates there have been between 10,000 and 16,000 related deaths so far during this flu season, but it's hard to predict how long the season will run.

"Seasons differs year to year. We had a little bit of a later start this year," Doyle said, noting that there has been "increasing activity in the last few weeks."

He added, "We would encourage people to get vaccinated."

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