Flu vaccine prevented nearly 60% of cases in BC this year: health officials

Feb 21 2020, 10:16 am

This year’s flu vaccine has proven to be more effective than it has in previous years, according to a recent report.

A mid-season analysis was performed by the Canadian Sentinel Practitioner Surveillance Network (SPSN) and released on Thursday. The SPSN uses data from hundreds of practitioners across Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec, and monitors how effective each year’s influenza vaccine is.

The SPSN says that so far, the 2019-20 vaccine is estimated to have prevented nearly six out of 10 cases (58%) of influenza in non-elderly people. This year’s influenza is said to be a mix of both influenza A and B, with an “unusual” rise in influenza B in the latter half of the flu season. Influenza B also tends to affect children more so than older individuals.

“That’s an important reduction in risk, especially for people with underlying medical conditions who face a greater threat of serious complications if infected by influenza,” says Dr. Danuta Skowronski, who heads the Influenza and Emerging Respiratory Pathogens Team at the BCCDC and leads the Canadian SPSN.

Based on data from the SPSN, it also appears that the efficacy of the 2019-20 vaccine has increased compared to prior years. In 2016-17, the influenza vaccine was estimated to be only 44% effective. It was even less successful in 2017-18, with an efficacy rate of 37%.

2018-19 was also a successful year in terms of how effective the vaccine was, with an estimated effective rate of 56%.

The BCCDC also said that people can reduce and minimize the spread of viruses by washing their hands, coughing and sneezing into their elbow, and avoiding touching their face while in public.

A full look at the vaccine’s effectiveness results can be found in the journal Eurosurveillance.