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October 2018 (Vol. 3 Issue 8)

'Wrong' flu vaccine this year means nobody is protected, health agency admits
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

'Wrong' flu vaccine this year means nobody is protected, health agency admits image

Health agencies admit they have chosen the wrong flu vaccine this year. People who've already been vaccinated won't be protected from the strain that has already started to cause a big leap in infections.

Public Health England has sent out a letter to GPs, warning them to expect to see many cases of flu among those who have been vaccinated. "It is possible that flu will be seen amongst individuals, both staff and patients, who have accepted this vaccination," the letter reads.

Most new cases of flu being seen in the UK are of a particular strain of influenza B—the very one the vaccine doesn't protect against. The UK health regulators this year opted for a trivalent vaccination, a cheaper option, which is designed to protect against one type of influenza B and two types of influenza A.

But a sudden leap in flu cases over the Christmas period have almost all been of the type B/Yamagata type, which the vaccine doesn't protect against.

Even when the health agencies do get it right, the vaccines aren't very effective. Last year, the vaccine was effective in 41 per cent of under-65s, and yet offered no protection in the over-65s, the very group that needs it the most.

The ineffectiveness of the vaccine has a lot to do with the way it's been manufactured, a study that WDDTY has already reported on has discovered. The manufacturing process begins with a flu virus being inserted into a chicken egg—and it immediately adapts to cope with its new environment. This mutation means that the vaccine that is produced can't 'lock into' the actual virus, researchers from Scripps Research Institute have discovered.


References

(Sources: The Times, January 4, 2018; PLOS Pathogen, 2017; 13: e1006682)

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