INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 16, 2015)-- There have been 85 flu-related deaths in Indiana so far this season. That’s higher than the total deaths in each of the previous 10 years—and flu season is only halfway through.
This news comes as the Centers for Disease Control released a new report stating the flu vaccine is only 23 percent effective this year. On average the flu vaccine is usually about 60 percent effective. That's slashed more than half this year thanks to the harsh strain H3N2 that's circulating this year. The vaccine is produced a year in advance and that mutated strain was not covered in this year's vaccine.
St. Vincent infectious disease specialist, Dr. Chris Belcher says the flu vaccine is still necessary.
"23 percent is definitely better than nothing. That's at preventing all cases of influenza--you may be doing better than that at hospitalizations and severe disease," said Dr. Belcher.
Urging people to get a flu vaccine is now an even harder sell--especially to young adults. But Dr. Belcher says that's the group that benefits from the shot the most. And they could help stop the spread of the flu to children and the elderly.
"Flu vaccines work very well, their best in the young adults and teenagers. So giving the vaccine to them may help those people where the flu rates low and they don't respond so well to vaccines anyway," said Dr. Belcher.
Just this week the Indiana State Health Commissioner said the high death toll should serve as a reminder the flu shot is still important.
"But as we see the death toll go up we want to make sure that we're getting the appropriate message out and that's my concern that we're getting the proper message out that you should get the flu shot and it's even more important you get it this year than in past years," said Dr. Jerome Adams.