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Flu Vaccine Isn't Foolproof
Date:10/26/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 25 (HealthDay News) -- The most widely used flu vaccine in the United States is only about 60 percent effective in healthy adults, new research indicates.

That vaccine is the trivalent inactivated vaccine (TIV), which accounts for about 90 percent of flu shots in this country, according to a report in the Oct. 25 issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The less common live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) is 83 percent protective in children aged 7 and younger, but it's not recommended for everyone in this age group.

The findings are in line with other recent reviews and don't mean that people shouldn't get their annual flu shot, said Dr. Joseph Bresee, chief of the epidemiology and prevention branch in the influenza division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The findings are not that unexpected, but flu vaccines do work. They don't work as well as we'd like them to work all the time, [but] flu is a bad disease. It can cause death and hospitalization, and the flu vaccine is absolutely the best tool to prevent that," Bresee said. "While we all want them to be better, they're still the best thing we have."

Since 2010, U.S. health authorities have recommended that all individuals aged 6 months or older receive a flu vaccine, either the traditional shot (this is the inactivated vaccine) or the nasal-spray flu vaccine, which is made with live albeit weakened influenza viruses. The nasal spray is only approved for people aged 2 through 49.

The inactivated vaccine has been in use since 1978, and represents the lion's share of all influenza vaccines in the United States. Only about 9 percent of vaccines are given in the live LAIV form, which was approved for use in 2003.

One of the reasons the live vaccine is not used as much, despite its greater effectiveness, is that it's only licensed for those aged 2 to 49
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