Influenza vaccine found to be 62% effective; flu activity widespread in 47 states

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Although not perfect, the influenza vaccine remains the best tool to protect against the virus.

Influenza activity is widespread in 47 states, CDC stated in its FluView report covering the week ending January 5. The agency also reported in the January 11 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that the 2012–13 influenza vaccine has been shown to be 62% effective at preventing the virus.

CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, noted in a telebriefing today that although trends in influenza activity are hard to predict, influenza activity is expected to remain high for several more weeks. Frieden also stated that the 2012–13 flu season started early—about 1 month sooner than normal. CDC reported in early December that it was the earliest start since that seen for the 2003–04 influenza season.

Two pediatric deaths associated with influenza were reported to CDC during December 30, 2013, to January 5, 2013—one associated with an influenza A (H3) virus and the other with an influenza A virus for which the subtype was not determined. The number of pediatric deaths for the 2012–13 influenza season now totals 20.

Data from 1,155 children and adults presenting with acute respiratory infection during December 3, 2012, to January 2, 2013, were used to estimate the overall effectiveness of the 2012–13 influenza vaccine. After adjusting for study site, vaccine effectiveness was estimated at 62%, with a 95% confidence interval (CI) of 51% to 71%. CDC also reported a stratified vaccine effectiveness of 55% (95% CI 39–67%) against influenza A and 70% (56–80%) against influenza B.

"Childhood vaccines routinely get well over 90% vaccine efficacy, and that's what we'd like to see [for the influenza vaccine]," said Frieden. "Many of the vaccines last longer than a year and cover a wider variety of a subtype of an organism. So, the flu vaccine is far from perfect—that's why you have to get revaccinated each year and that's why we need to reformulate the vaccine each year. ... We wish we would have a vaccine that was long lasting and universal against flu, but that's a way's off. Today ... the flu vaccine is by far the best protection we have," Frieden added.

In addition to encouraging everyone to get vaccinated against influenza, Frieden emphasized the importance of frequent, thorough hand washing to prevent virus spread. Individuals who do get sick with flu should seek medical attention so that antiviral treatment, if appropriate, can begin immediately.

NIVS seeks information on status of your influenza vaccine supply

As a result of questions on recent National Influenza Vaccine Summit (NIVS) calls and e-mails, as well as reports from states and CDC, the Summit is attempting to ascertain the status of influenza vaccine supplies in the country. As the influenza season kicked off early this year, NVIS is trying to get a measure of provider experience regarding availability of vaccine. Therefore, the Summit is encouraging influenza vaccine providers to complete a quick survey: the NIVS 2012-13 Flu Vaccine Questionnaire. The information provided will be reported in the aggregate and not according to individual practice or entity. The survey will be open until Friday, January 18, 2013.

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