The Flu Vaccine: Do You Need It This Year?

It’s that time of year again: flu shot season! Yes, your offices and schools are filled with plans for “flu shot days”. I’m sure you’re debating right now whether or not you or your kids need it. So, here’s my tip on the flu vaccine: It’s basically the same advice I gave last year, which is also consistent with the U.S. CDC: I think all healthy persons should consider the vaccine, especially if you are pregnant or in contact with infants. But — as I mentioned last year — please do not assume that the vaccine protects you 100% and that you can simply touch door handles and smile when someone sneezes in your face, falsely reassured that you’re protected.

I said this last year because of a large meta-analysis from the esteemed Cochrane group, which found only about a 73% reduced risk of the flu — in the most ideal situation. Plus, it barely seemed effective for kids under 2 years of age. Now, just this week, an even more specific meta-analysis just published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases shows an even less effective prevention: 59%. During the recent H1N1 years, it was a bit better at 69%. Here’s a bit from their abstract:

Interpretation:Influenza vaccines can provide moderate protection against virologically confirmed influenza, but such protection is greatly reduced or absent in some seasons. Evidence for protection in adults aged 65 years or older is lacking. LAIVs consistently show highest efficacy in young children (aged 6 months to 7 years). New vaccines with improved clinical efficacy and effectiveness are needed to further reduce influenza-related morbidity and mortality



So there you have it. So the question is; do you like those odds? No, it’s not 100% but it’s still darn good, in my opinion. We all hope a better vaccine is just around the corner with new technology, but let’s just get to the point:



  • I definitely plan to get the vaccine, as I am surrounded by sick adults and kids and I don’t want to give the flu to them.
  • In the same vein, any person in close contact to our most vulnerable patients (kids under 2; the very old; and people with chronic diseases) should really consider getting the vaccine, again to prevent you from giving it to your vulnerable loved one.
  • Pregnant women should definitely get the vaccine
  • Anyone who wants it can get it.

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