Friday Flu Shot: CDC Provides Influenza Update
Influenza has hit the United States early this year. I would be surprised if you’re not already aware of this, because there is so much discussion about it these days. With all the conversations there comes a variety of accurate and inaccurate information being spread. People are making statements about the flu shot, vaccine effectiveness, possible side effects, what constitutes “the flu”, how serious the flu is (or is not), and how many people have died. This morning, a flu related status update on our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page provided a perfect example of this. I read several statements that were completely untrue. Some people even stated that their doctors were informing them that the flu vaccine was not a good match to the strains that are circulating. That is just completely inaccurate.
However, as more than 100 comments continued to come in on that particular thread, I turned my attention to an important conference call initiated by the CDC. This call was scheduled to provide media with an accurate update on this year’s influenza season and it was a wonderful opportunity for people to ask questions of Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Joseph Bresee, M.D., Chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch, Influenza Division, CDC.
I’m sure we will be reading lots of coverage of this call over the next few days. However, since I know our readers are interested in keeping up-to-date on immunization related news, below you will find a few of the most prevalent data points released by the CDC today.
- The United States is experiencing an early influenza season, with activity elevated nationally.
- For the week ending January 5, 2013, there are 47 states reporting widespread flu activity; 24 of which are reporting a high level of activity.
- This week’s FluView indicate that incidence of flu continue to rise in some area, while others have fallen. (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/).
- Since October 1, 2012, 3,710 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported; an increase of 1,443 hospitalizations from the previous week. This translates to a rate of 13.3 influenza-associated hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the United States.
- There are now 20 pediatric deaths due to influenza. Of the 20, 1 was not eligible for vaccination, 2 were fully vaccinated (according to ACIP guidelines), and the rest were not vaccinated.
- Information about the pediatric deaths, including basic demographics, underlying conditions and time and place of death, is collected through the Influenza-Associated Pediatric Mortality Surveillance System. Information for the 2012-2013 season is now available through the Influenza Associated Pediatric Mortality application of FluView Interactive. The number of flu-associated deaths among children reported during the 2012-2013 flu season will be updated each week and can be found at www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/#S3.
- Even previously healthy children can become seriously ill if they get the flu. The latest laboratory-confirmed influenza hospitalization data reported in this week’s FluView indicate that approximately 40% of children hospitalized with the flu had no identified underlying medical conditions.
- The CDC is reporting that there is evidence of a good match between vaccine and circulating flu viruses. They specified that about 90% of what is circulating are one of the three strains that are covered in this year’s vaccine. The other 10% are a separate influenza B. The hope is that manufacturers will soon be able to include a fourth strain in vaccines for future influenza seasons.
- Findings from early data suggest that this season’s vaccine so far is reducing the risk of having to go to the doctor for influenza by about 60% for people who got vaccinated. (More information about the study, published in the MMWR, is available in the section titled “Interim Vaccine Effectiveness Estimates.”)
- This is similar to a summary of vaccine effectiveness (VE) estimates from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trial data published recently and a 60% VE is considered a moderate rate of vaccine effectiveness compared with the effectiveness of many childhood vaccines.
- Improvements in vaccine technology to increase influenza vaccine effectiveness are needed, however, the flu vaccine offers the best protection we have against influenza right now and even 60% VE against influenza-related doctor’s visits is significant.
- Also, influenza vaccination, even with moderate effectiveness, has been shown to offer substantial other benefits including reducing illness, antibiotic use, time lost from work, hospitalizations, and deaths.
- As of January 4, 2013, more than 128 million doses of influenza vaccine had been distributed to vaccine providers in the United States for the 2012-2013 season. (This is not doses administered.) This is among a total of about 135 million doses that were anticipated to be available for the U.S. market.
- At this time, some vaccine providers may have exhausted their vaccine supplies, while others may have remaining supplies of vaccine.People seeking vaccination may need to call more than one provider to locate vaccine. The flu vaccine locator at http://flushot.healthmap.org may be helpful.
- Flu vaccination coverage is similar to what it was during the same time last flu season, which means more than 60% of Americans have not taken advantage of flu vaccination and the protection it offers from influenza and its complications. Therefore, individuals should get flu vaccinations as soon as possible.