Flu vaccine effectiveness – prevents pediatric deaths

flu vaccine effectiveness

When it comes to the influenza vaccine, there are a number of myths that surround the flu vaccine, pushed by vaccine deniers and, often, by vaccine supporters. The two most prevalent seems to be that the flu vaccine isn’t very effective, and the flu isn’t that dangerous. But a new peer-reviewed article has been published that focuses on these two myths. Based on the evidence, flu vaccine effectiveness prevents pediatric deaths. Period.

There have been numerous articles about flu vaccine effectiveness over the years – it’s rarely 90% or greater. The major reason for this is that all of the health organizations across the world have to meet 8-10 months before the flu season to determine what subtype(s) of flu virus will be most common in the northern or southern hemisphere. In some years, the flu virus will mutate between the time to decide on the right antigen and the vaccine is manufactured and shipped.

Generally, the vaccine is very effective against influenza B, mainly because this subtype of flu tends to mutate at a much lower rate than other flu viruses. On the other hand, the vaccine tends to have somewhat lower effectiveness against influenza A, mainly because of its higher mutation rate, and because it can infect (and mutate) in many other animals, especially birds, which have regular contact with humans.

But in no case is the effectiveness at 0. There seems to be a reliance on the Nirvana fallacy – if it’s not perfect, it’s worthless. Yes, the flu vaccine effectiveness is far from perfect, it ranges from 40-65% most years. But does that mean it’s worthless? Absolutely not. The flu vaccine prevents a lot of pediatric deaths, something we need to carefully examine.

 

Flu vaccine effectiveness – the publication

In a paper published in Pediatrics by Flannery et al., the authors reviewed laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric deaths since 2004 to determine the relationship with flu vaccination status. What they found was that the vaccine was much better at preventing pediatric death than not vaccinating at all – this may seem obvious, but it’s better to have statistically valid data published in a top rated journal.

The researchers conducted a case-cohort epidemiological study that compared vaccination uptake among laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric deaths with estimated vaccination coverage among pediatric cohorts in the United States. The study design allows the researchers to determine the actual flu vaccine effectiveness in preventing pediatric deaths.

Using data from July 2010 through June 2014, there were 358 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported in children aged 6 months through 17 years. The researchers were able to determine vaccination status for 291 of these deaths. Here are their results:

  1. Of the 291 deaths with known vaccination status, 75 (26%) received the vaccine before onset of the flu, and 216 (74%) were unvaccinated.
  2. The overall vaccine effectiveness against death was 65%, which means the vaccine prevented pediatric death in 65% of the population.
  3. The vaccine effectiveness against death in children with high-risk conditions was 51%

This data clearly shows a difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups with respect to pediatric death.

Flannery et al. conclude that,

Influenza vaccination was associated with reduced risk of laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric death. Increasing influenza vaccination could prevent influenza-associated deaths among children and adolescents.

Flu vaccines save lives

This is robust and high quality evidence that the flu vaccine prevents pediatric deaths. Most children who die from the flu are unvaccinated, that is clear from this analysis. The job of vaccines is to prevent infectious diseases that harm our children (and adults) – the flu vaccine isn’t perfect, but for minimal risk, it prevents a lot of deaths. It does save lives.

 

Citations

 

No no no. The CDC did not say the flu vaccine was worthless

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Updated 6 December 2014.

Here we go again. The popular press is once again misinterpreting and overstating infectious disease issues (Ebola anyone?).

NBC reported that CDC Warning: Flu Viruses Mutate and Evade Current Vaccine! Uh oh.

The Guardian blared headlines that Flu vaccine protects against wrong strain, US health officials warn. Run away, it’s the apocalypse!

At least the Health Ranger hasn’t posted anything on Natural News. I should have waited another day. The Natural News publishes its version, CDC issues flu vaccine apology: this year’s vaccine doesn’t work!, using its typical provocative and deceitful headline click-bait.

Time to get a cup of coffee and look at this story a bit more rationally, without the explosive headlines. Continue reading “No no no. The CDC did not say the flu vaccine was worthless”

Vaccine denier cherry picks bad hepatitis B vaccination article

hep-B-vaccineHere we go again.

In a story in the anti-science website GreenMedInfo, author Sayer Ji attacked hepatitis B vaccines (HepB) based on one small, recently published study by Pande et al. I’ve previously written about Mr. Ji mostly showcasing his pseudoscience ideas, formed from a postmodernistic hatred of real science. Mr. Ji is thoroughly antivaccine, believing that vaccines subvert evolution (it’s clear that Ji thinks that those who die of vaccine preventable disease deserve to die) and that vaccines are not natural, so they harm the immune system. He also despises Bill Gates’ efforts to bring vaccines to parts of the world that would benefit from the medications.

Sayer Ji is simply a lunatic about vaccines, searching the internet for anything that supports his pseudoscientific beliefs. And he seems to be pround to engage in the logical fallacy of Cherry Picking, where only select evidence is accepted in order to persuade the audience to accept a particular position, that is, vaccines don’t work, and evidence that would go against the position is withheld. One important point–the stronger the the withheld evidence, the more fallacious the argument.  Continue reading “Vaccine denier cherry picks bad hepatitis B vaccination article”

I get an email about Gardasil

hpv posterI get lots of email about my articles that are published here. Sometimes, it’s about grammar or spelling (and the grammar KGB can be uncivil at times). Sometimes, it’s compliments or questions about what I’ve written. Rarely, they’re rude and usually include quite immature comments about the location of my head. However, I recently received an email that is more or less polite, but is filled with so many errors and logical fallacies, that I thought it should be critiqued publicly.

Here are my point-by-point comments about the email:

I stumbled across your blog and could not believe what I was reading about the safety of Gardasil.  As a mother of a Gardasil injured daughter, your profuse endorsement made me skeptical.  I want to begin by saying I am not anti-vaccine;  I am anti-Gardasil.  Continue reading “I get an email about Gardasil”