BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There’s still months left in flu season and here in Maryland, we’re already seeing thousands more cases than we saw all of last season. One of the reasons? The CDC admits the flu vaccine was not very effective. Tuesday, health officials were grilled on Capitol Hill.
Meghan McCorkell has more on what went wrong.
Most years, the flu vaccine is about 50-60% effective. The CDC says this year, the vaccine is at just 23%.
At the beginning of flu season, lines to get the vaccine stretched out clinic doors.
“I don’t want to get the flu,” said Stephanie Williams.
Now those lines have died down after word that the flu shot is one of the least effective in a decade and lawmakers on Capitol Hill want to know why.
“America is experiencing a severe flu season,” said Rep. Tim Murphy.
Tuesday, CDC officials admitted the flu shot is falling short of protecting most Americans.
“The vaccine we are using is not well-matched to circulating H3N2 strains,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, Centers for Disease Control.
The strain is particularly aggressive and is causing more severe illnesses. Local ERs say they have been overwhelmed by flu patients all season long.
“Compared to last year, I’d say we’ve seen significantly more and more cases,” said Dr. Emmanuel Oke, Sinai Hospital.
In Maryland, there have been 21,702 flu cases that have been treated in ERs so far—that’s compared to nearly 19,000 all of last season. Of those cases this season, 2,591 have been hospitalized—nearly a thousand more than last flu season.
Dr. Oke says many of the patients he’s seen were vaccinated for the flu.
“It’s been remarkable how many people we’ve seen this year who’ve gotten the flu shot and are still getting positive flu screens,” he said.
And the numbers could go up with flu season stretching into April and May.
More than 60 children have died from the flu here in the US so far this season.
Researchers are working on a universal flu vaccine that would treat all strains.