Influenza Vaccines Prevented 8,000 Deaths Last Flu Season

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The 2017-2018 flu season was a standout season—and not in a good way—with 79,000 flu-related deaths, including 172 pediatric deaths, and the highest number of flu cases since the 2009 swine flu outbreak. And yet, a new analysis by the CDC shows that matters could have been much worse had it not been for the influenza vaccine.

The flu vaccine prevented 7.1 million illnesses, according to the analysis, along with 109,000 hospitalizations, and 8000 deaths. Hospitalizations were 10% less than would be expected without the vaccine and 41% lower among young children ages 6 months to 4 years. This despite the fact that last year’s flu vaccine was found to only be 38% effective.

“We hope that our findings are helpful for clinicians to use when they talk to their patients about getting vaccinated against influenza and we hope that the findings can be a trigger for the general public to seek out vaccination, too,” said Melissa Rolfes, PhD, MPH, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s influenza division, and the lead author of the study.

The CDC estimates that about 42% of the US population received a flu vaccine in the 2017-2018 flu season.

“With our current vaccines, if more people were to be vaccinated, more people would be protected and the burden of influenza would be lower,” she said. “On the other hand, better vaccine effectiveness could generate greater protection. It’s important to find a balance between promoting the use of existing vaccines while at the same time pursuing enhanced vaccines that might offer better protection.”

By Jared Kaltwasser

A version of this article was originally published by MD Magazine. Visit MdMag.com to view the full article.

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