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Does the Flu Vaccine Work?

Posted on December 1, 2020

We often hear that people do not get the flu vaccine because of they think it doesn’t work – they still got the flu! But did you know that flu vaccine effectiveness also looks at protection against hospitalization and even death?

Flu vaccination benefits: a look at 2019-2020
Based on studies, preliminary flu vaccine effectiveness for the 2019-2020 season was estimated to be 39% for all flu strains across all ages. But what does that mean? It means that the flu vaccine was 39% effective at reducing flu illnesses that required medical attention.

During the 2019-2020 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that flu vaccination prevented:

  • 5 million flu illnesses,
  • 105,000 flu-related hospitalizations, and
  • 6,300 flu-related deaths.

Thirty-nine percent vaccine effectiveness might not feel impressive, but it’s incredible to know that more than 6,000 families could have lost a loved one to the flu last year – and didn’t! Flu vaccines are important for more than just preventing an individual from getting sick. Since flu vaccination is a team sport, everyone must play a part in helping to reduce flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.

Additional flu vaccine benefits
Besides the fact that flu vaccination reduces flu illness, hospitalizations, and deaths, flu vaccines have other benefits:

  • Children: Flu vaccination can reduce pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admissions by 74% and can reduce a healthy child’s risk of dying from flu by 65%
  • Adults: Flu vaccination among adults can reduce the risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) with flu by 82%
  • Pregnant women: Flu vaccination can reduce a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized with flu by an average of 40%
  • People with diabetes: Flu vaccination can reduce hospital admissions by 79% for people with diabetes
  • People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): Flu vaccination can reduce hospital admissions by 38% for people with COPD

The next time you hear someone say the flu vaccine doesn’t work because they still got sick, use this evidence to help them understand how vaccination can make the difference between feeling under the weather, and being hospitalized.

 

Sources:
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/resource-center/freeresources/graphics/flu-vaccine-protected-infographic.htm
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/vaccineeffect.htm
https://academic.oup.com/jid/article/210/5/674/2908613
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/spotlights/2017-2018/vaccine-reduces-risk-severe-illness.htm?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fflu%2Fspotlights%2Fvaccine-reduces-risk-severe-illness.htm
https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/68/9/1444/5126390
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9440437/
https://journal.chestnet.org/article/S0012-3692(18)32725-9/abstract

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