So last week I caught the flu. Holy $%#&. I'd take a nasty cold over this anytime.
Laying around for what seems forever wishing I didn't feel this way, I decided to do some reading up on why this year's flu vaccine wasn't very effective.
First I looked at how flu vaccines are made. Found a little video that makes a good summary. Watch it here.
Now the problem with this year's flu vaccine is mainly two fold.
First, the World Health Organization can guess wrong. Each year the WHO makes an educated guess as to what flu strains will be circulating the following season. In a good year they say the flu shot is up to 60% effective. This past year started out as 35% effective but when the H3N2 virus (which is in this year's vaccine) started to circulate that effectiveness fell to below 20%.
Historically they know that if a flu season includes H3N2 then the vaccine will not perform as expected.
Why is this?
Well for one, H3N2 mutates faster than other flu viruses and so it can spread through the population faster and beat the vaccine.
Moreover, as the video pointed out, it seems that the cheapest and easiest way to grow the viruses is in eggs. It has been discovered that the sneaky H3N2 virus has a tendency to mutate to the egg while incubating and this causes a vaccination mismatch.
Apparently the flu shot industry is heavily invested in their egg virus incubating infrastructure so its doubtful they will change to more modern methods of vaccine production. Doctors say there is no guarantee this change would even yield a different result anyways.
Here is a link to a great article explaining the situation. Read here.
Here is a link to the history of the H3N2 flu virus. Read here.
Of course the best way to prevent the flu is to live a healthy lifestyle and constant hand washing. I will continue to get a flu shot even if this year it didn't work for me.