Flu shot did poor job against worst bug in seniors

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For seniors, a flu vaccine is considered pretty good if it’s in the 30 to 40 percent range, said Dr. Arnold Monto, a University of Michigan flu expert.

A high-dose version of the flu show was recently made available for those 65 and older but the new study was too small to show whether that made a difference this year.

The CDC estimates are based on about 2,700 people who got sick in December and January. The researchers traced back to see who had gotten flu shots and who hadn’t. An earlier, smaller study put the vaccine’s overall effectiveness at 62 percent but other factors that might influence that figure weren’t taken into account.

The CDC’s Bresee said there’s a danger in providing preliminary results because it may result in people doubting _ or skipping _ flu shots. But the data was released to warn older people who got shots that they may still get sick and shouldn’t ignore any serious flu-like symptoms, he said.

The new data highlights an evolution in how experts are evaluating flu vaccine effectiveness. For years, it was believed that if the viruses in the vaccine matched the ones spreading around the country, then the vaccine would be effective.

This year’s shot was a good match to the bugs going around this winter, including the harsher H3N2 that tends to make people sicker. Yet the season proved to be a moderately severe one, with many illnesses occurring in people who’d been vaccinated.

A slate of new vaccines will be available next summer, including some that protect against as many of four strains of flu and some that can be made more quickly. But experts say it’s not clear whether they will be any more effective.

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Online:

CDC report: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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