This year's crop of flu vaccines is effective in preventing about one-third of flu cases, but is less successful in protecting people from one of the most virulent influenza strains, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC published interim estimates on vaccine effectiveness, and found that overall effectiveness against influenza A and influenza B since November 2017 has been 36%. However, the vaccines are only 25% against the influenza A strain H3N2, which has been behind some of the most severe flu cases this season.
Most years, flu vaccines prevent between 40% and 60% of flu cases, the CDC estimates.
The CDC found that 69% of flu cases are H3N2, according to the latest report. This particular strain has posed a vaccine challenge since the 2011-2012 flu season.
This flu season has been one of the worst in recent years, and the CDC expects a record number of hospitalizations before the season ends. Twenty-two pediatric deaths were reported between Feb. 4 and Feb. 10, according to the latest weekly update from CDC, and thus far 84 children have died this flu season.
There is good news, however—despite the relatively low overall vaccine effectiveness, the CDC found that they're 59% effective for children between the ages of 6 months and 8 years old.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar noted at a press briefing Thursday that there is still time for people to get flu shots and protect themselves from the virus.
"Getting the flu shot is the same kind of sensible precaution as buckling your seatbelt, and there is still time for these precautions to make a difference," Azar said.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sues hospital following choice to rescind job offer over flu vaccine
Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed suit against Michigan-based Memorial Healthcare after the hospital rescinded a job offer to a potential employee who would not get a flu vaccine for religious reasons, the agency announced.
The woman was hired as a medical transcriptionist and would eventually be working at home, but refused to get either an injection or spray flu vaccine for religious reasons. Though she offered to wear a mask on the job, and Memorial would allow that under its policies, the hospital still declined to hire her, according to EEOC.
The EEOC first attempted to settle the case without litigation, according to the announcement.