Journalist fails but science wins during flu pandemic

The Atlantic has a monumentally horrible article up about flu vaccination which has been buzzing around our bloggy back channels. There has been some good science reporting out there lately, but this ain’t it. I was hoping one of the best public health blogs would jump on this, and jump on it they did.  It is a terrific example of how to approach difficult data in the heat of a pandemic. This is your reading assignment for the weekend, and you can probably finish up before the Michigan game.  Go and read (and Go Blue!).

Posted in: Science and the Media

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4 thoughts on “Journalist fails but science wins during flu pandemic

  1. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    The authors reference Dr. Thomas Jefferson’s review of the literature. An exact quote from Jefferson’s article states….

    “Inactivated parenteral vaccines were 30% effective (95% CI 17% to 41%) against influenza-like illness, and 80% (95% CI 56% to 91%) efficacious against influenza when the vaccine matched the circulating strain and circulation was high, but decreased to 50% (95% CI 27% to 65%) when it did not.”

    So, the flu shot is 30% effective against ‘influenza-like illness’. Not bad actually. This is more than I expected, given that the vaccine is specifically made to protect against a certain strain of influenza A.

    It is 80% effective against Flu A when well matched with the circulating strain.

    Again, pretty good.

    It is even 50% efficacious against unmatched strains.

    So, even if poorly matched, if most people in the community are vaccinated, at least 50% of them would have significant protection. And the 50% that were not protected by their own immunity would benefit from by having their risk of exposure decreased due to the 50% that were protected.

    This added layer of protection becomes significant only when large numbers of people are vaccinated. This is called herd immunity.

    The H1N1 vaccine is extremely well matched to the circulating virus. So if we go with the 80% efficacy number that Dr. Jefferson refers to in this scenario, then the herd immunity effects should be quite high if communities can achieve decent vaccination rates. There will be many less flu related deaths.

    If people get both flu vaccines this year in significant numbers, the herd immunity effects will compliment each other.

    The downside is extremely small (cost, pain at the injection, rare reactions).

    Why all the controversy?

  2. Dr Benway says:

    Cuz the stupid vaccine won’t even protect you from the common cold, that’s why!

  3. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    The common cold is not flu. That’s why cuz.

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