The 2016–2017 flu season is far enough behind us that health system numbers crunchers can assess how well the vaccine performed—and it’s definitely a mixed bag. While it was a good match for the predominant strain (Type A H3N2) and was around 42% effective in preventing illness severe enough to send patients to the doctor’s office, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admits that it was essentially ineffective in protecting people age 65 and over. Since those patients are among the most vulnerable to serious consequences of influenza, including death, this is a significant shortcoming no matter how well it performed in heartier patients. While the season was considered only “moderately severe,” the flu-related hospitalization rate for older adults was the highest since the 2014–2015 season. The CDC still recommends flu shots for most Americans age 6 months or older, because flu is still considered one of the country’s leading killers. As such, urgent care clinicians are reminded of the importance of patient education as to the value of flu shots. It’s never too early to remind patients that you’ll be happy to give them one next season.
Last Season’s Flu Vaccine Gets a C+ Overall, But Failed in Protecting Older Patients