Got a Flu Shot Last Year? Turns Out it Didn’t Matter

For those of us afraid of needles, flu season can be a pretty scary time.

But at least you can rest assured that sharp metal implement is going into our arms for a good reason, right?

Nope. As it turns out, if you had a flu shot last year, it more than likely did nothing to help you protect against the virus.

The Canadian Press reported that in the influenza vaccine over the last two years was the least effective it’s been in more than a decade of monitoring.

In other words, the lowest rate of effectiveness since Canadian researchers began observing. In other, other words, the worst ever.

“2014-15 was a standout season for us. It was exceptional. It was the lowest vaccine effectiveness that we have recorded in the 10 years since we pioneered this approach for annual vaccine effectiveness estimations,” said Dr. Danuta Skowronski.

According to the report, in any normal year the risk of contracting the flu is generally reduced by about 40 to 60 per cent with the vaccine. But last year’s vaccination was found to be less than 10 per cent effective in preventing the virus.

Worryingly is the fact that it actually helped increase the risk of getting sick for some people. Those inoculated in previous years had a higher chance of coming down with the flu than those who didn’t get a shot.

Despite reports in the media that suggest the ‘crystal ball‘ approach – getting the world’s best scientists to guess which strain of influenza will be hitting us each flu season – is still our best defense against it, endangering those who actually get the shot was never advertised as part of the package.

So why was it so ineffectual?

The vaccine from last season aimed to protect against two A strains, H3N2 (responsible for 90 per cent of all flu deaths) and H1N1, and a B strain, based on recommendations at the end of the previous flu season. However, by the time it was being injected into people, the H3N2 virus had mutated, meaning it afforded virtually no protection against the strain.

Dr. Allison McGeer of Mount Sinai Hospital stated that this was the first year in “a very long time in which a vaccine didn’t work against one strain of flu virus.

But that doesn’t mean that scaredy-cats afraid of needles are off the hook – experts are confident that the 2015-16 flu shot has been pretty effective in protecting against the H1N1 strain.