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Tuesday 19 June 2018

Winter flu jab is 'poor' in protecting people from killer 'Aussie flu'- study

The flu jab has been ‘poor’
The flu jab has been ‘poor’

The flu jab given to thousands of people in Ireland this winter provided poor protection against one of the main killer strains, a new study has revealed.

THE flu jab given to thousands of people in Ireland this winter provided poor protection against one of the main killer strains, a new study has revealed.

The vaccine was least effective against the A(H3N2) strain - popularly known as "Aussie flu" - which was responsible for around four in 10 deaths from the virus.

It was just 8pc effective against this strain among people of all ages, the findings from a study of the jab in nine European countries, including Ireland, revealed.

The vaccine provided "moderate" protection against the other major strain circulating, influenza B.

The interim findings showed the response rate from patients to the jab varied between 39pc to 52pc against the B strain. It was most effective against swine flu (H1N1) but there is little of this circulating this year.

This winter has seen one of the most prolonged flu seasons in years with 116 deaths from the virus and 3,281 patients hospitalised due to complications.

The most recent report shows flu is now well on the wane in Ireland, although it is still circulating.

The study on the flu jab, which was led by French epidemiologist Dr Marc Rondy, appears in the journal Eurosurveillance.

It concluded that the conventional vaccine is least effective among the over 65s, who are hardest hit by the virus. And it points to the recommendation in the UK to give older age groups a different winter jab known as adjuvanted trivalent inactivated vaccines.

Effective

Adjuvants work to boost our immune response to a vaccine and make it more effective and long-lasting. This kind of flu vaccine has been available in Europe since 1997.

Asked to comment on the study, Dr Cillian de Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory in UCD, said: "The vaccine effectiveness against H3N2 was poor this season, but was good against H1N1, and moderate against influenza B.

"I think the data highlights the importance of influenza vaccination. It is still the most effective prevention measure we have, but also [highlights] the challenges involved, particularly in the context of H3N2."

Dr De Gascun pointed out that the World Health Organisation, which decides on the ingredients for the flu vaccine each winter, has recommended a change in the H3N2 component for next season.

He said this new component is included in the flu vaccine for Australia, which will have its winter during our summer.

"So, we'll be keeping a close eye on their season, and hoping to see improved vaccine effectiveness rates," he added.

Most outbreaks of flu, where it was passed on from one person to another, were reported in residential care settings, including nursing homes.

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