Flu shot provided ‘substantial protection’ this season, CDC says

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The 2022-2023 flu shot reduced the risk of flu-related hospitalization by nearly three quarters among children andby nearly half among adults, according to new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccinated adults were also about half as likely to have flu-related illness and emergency department visits.

The data, presented at CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meeting on Wednesday, showed consistent benefit across five vaccine effectiveness studies.

“Vaccination provided substantial protection against inpatient, emergency department and outpatient illness across all ages,” said Dr. Mark Tenforde, a medical officer in the CDC’s Influenza Division.

Tenforde added that flu vaccination provided important protection among adults 65 and older, and people who are immunocompromised – groups that are less likely to have an immune response to vaccination, and are more likely to develop serious flu complications.

Experts say the flu shot is providing better protection than previous years. Results presented by one surveillance network showed that adults who had received their flu shot were 44% less likely to visit an emergency department or urgent care center and 39% less likely to be hospitalized due to flu illness or complications, compared to 25% vaccine effectiveness at preventing emergency department or urgent care visits and hospitalization during the 2021-2022 season.

The 2022-23 flu season was more severe and peaked earlier than previous seasons, with late November hospitalization rates reaching levels that aren’t typically seen until December or January.

This season also saw the highest number pediatric flu deaths since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, with 111 deaths reported.

“This is unfortunately more than in 2020-21, for which one was recorded, and 2021-22, for which 45 were recorded,” said Dr. Lisa Grohskopf, a medical officer in the CDC’s Influenza Division and lead for the CDC’s Vaccine Policy Unit.

Grohskopf said it was too soon to know whether any of these children had underlying health conditions, but previous research from the CDC showed that most pediatric deaths were among unvaccinated children.

Flu activity in the US is currently low, with roughly 1.7% of tests positive for the virus, but experts say it’s still not too late to get your shot.

“These data underscore that flu vaccination can offer substantial benefit against flu and its potentially serious complications,” the CDC says on its website. “While flu activity has returned to low levels at this time, CDC continues to recommend annual vaccination as long as flu is spreading in the community.”