Is the flu shot effective in preventing the virus? - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Is the flu shot effective in preventing the virus?

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If you received your flu shot for the 2012-2013 season, doctors with the Centers for Disease Control say you are protected.

But try telling that to dozens of folks who claim they either got the flu, or had flu like symptoms, after they received the vaccine.

"We've ordered more vaccine and given out about 1,500 doses alone," said Dr. Scott Cummings with Palmetto Medical. "The shots should be in by Saturday. I still recommend the vaccine, although, I don't think the strain that is spreading is in the vaccine."

Dr. Tom Frieden, director for CDC, said this year's flu vaccine is 62 percent effective in preventing the virus. He explained that number meant a person was 62 percent less likely to get the flu that would require you to see a doctor. The number sounds low, but Dr. Frieden said the average effectiveness of a flu shot on any given year ranges from 50 to 70 percent.

Dr. Frieden also said the three most common flu strains the CDC is seeing this year are in the 2013 vaccine. The fourth strain, H3N2, however, is not. The South Carolina Department of Health says that strain is the one hitting people the hardest.

Doctors with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta said they can only predict which strains will strike the United States from year to year.

"We're able to make estimates in line with what we expect," explained Dr. Frieden. "It shows the flu vaccine can prevent most cases of flu, but it's far from perfect. It's still the best thing you can do to protect yourself. There's still vaccines out there. If you want to get vaccinated, better late than never."

"Flu vaccines are tough, and one of the problems is the flu virus changes all the time," explained Dr. Joseph Bresee, chief of epidemiology with the influenza division of the CDC, "Because it mutates so often, we have to keep up with the vaccine often. The other thing is the antibodies we get when we get the vaccine go away. We get a nice rise of antibodies through the flu season, but then it tends to decline during the flu season."

Dr. Bresee said this is why people have to be revaccinated every year.

The CDC says as of mid November, only 37 percent of Americans received their flu shot. They say it's not too late. They don't expect the virus to change, but it will take up to two weeks for the vaccines antibodies to take effect.

The CDC said the numbers show a classic flu epidemic, but the widespread activity is months earlier than normal. So far, 22 people in South Carolina have died from the flu. Only one person has died from a flu related death in Georgia.

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