Seasonal influenza has swept through the entire United States this year, with a total of 63 pediatric deaths recorded as of Feb. 3.
As the death toll continues to rise each week, the CDC remains unchanged on strongly recommending immunization, most especially after its most recent analysis revealed vaccines to provide substantial protection against strains of influenza A and B viruses.
Based on data obtained from over 4,000 participants enrolled in the Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network, flu shots have proven to be 59 percent effective in younger patients aged 6 months through 8 years and 36 percent effective in older patients.
In the same report, the federal agency also warns of influenza activity persisting for several weeks more and highlights the proper use of antiviral drugs to treat severe cases among adults, who have posted the most number of hospitalizations.
Flu Vaccination: Still The Strongest Defense
Although the overall efficacy of this year's vaccine falls below 50 percent, it is still considered the best course of defense against the flu, as it is significantly more effective than previous formulations.
"Getting the flu shot is the same kind of sensible precaution as buckling your seat belt," says Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a report. "If you got the flu shot but you end up catching the flu, it could be less severe and less likely to land you in the hospital."
Moreover, American vaccines were found to give stronger protection than those available in Canada and Australia, where flu shots are only 17 percent and 10 percent effective, respectively.
According to the report, the CDC will continue to investigate the vaccine's effectiveness throughout the rest of the season. Future findings should help in developing stronger and more well-rounded vaccines for the next flu season.
FDA Commissioner: Cell-Based Vaccines Are More Effective
In a statement following the release of the report, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb announced an upcoming meeting with an expert panel for the selection of strains to be used in formulating next season's vaccines. Such conference is slated in two weeks.
Additionally, he points out that based on the preliminary data published by the CDC, cell-based vaccines developed using cells of mammals or through recombinant DNA technology have shown better efficacy than those made from chicken eggs.
"Scientists at the FDA, CDC, and NIH are working diligently to fully understand the basis of this finding, so that all of next year's vaccines can provide better protection in preventing the flu," states Gottlieb.
However, the reason why the cell-based vaccine is more potent in fighting H3N2 than its egg-based counterpart remains unidentified. The agency's commissioner notes that more study is needed regarding such matter.
The CDC's final data analysis will be released by the end of the 2017-2018 flu season.