Flu vaccine provides only 3% effectiveness, says public health body


This season’s influenza vaccine has only been 3.4% effective, leading to large outbreaks of flu in UK care homes, according to research from Public Health England (PHE) published in Eurosurveillance
, the journal of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, on 5 February 2015. In contrast, the vaccine was 50% effective in previous years.

Protection against the viral infection is dependent on scientists predicting which strains of flu will be in circulation during the winter months. This season there was a mismatch between the strain of A(H3N2) flu that has circulated and the strain in the vaccine.

“The current vaccine is still expected to protect against flu A(H1N1)pdm09 and flu B, both of which may yet circulate this season, so anyone in an at-risk group should still get vaccinated if they have not already,” says Richard Pebody, one of the authors of the study and head of flu surveillance at the PHE.

“Our findings also mean that the early use of antivirals to treat and help prevent serious cases of flu in vulnerable patients is even more important this season.”

A flu vaccination service is widely offered through community pharmacies; in England, more than 50% of pharmacies that were invited to take part in the service took up the offer, representing more than 5,000 pharmacies. Pharmacy Voice says the vaccine is still the “best protection we have against the illness”.


[1] Pebody RG, Warburton F, Ellis J et al. Low effectiveness of seasonal influenza vaccine in preventing laboratory-confirmed influenza in primary care in the United Kingdom: 2014/15 mid–season results. Eurosurveillance. 2015;20(5):pii=21025.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 14 February 2015, Vol 294, No 7849;294(7849):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20067817

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