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article imageRecent flu vaccine efficacy estimate higher in Canada than Spain

By Jeannie Stokowski-Bisanti     Feb 16, 2014 in Health
Canadian researchers estimate that this season's flu vaccine is about 70 percent effective so far, which is much higher than the recent 24 percent estimate reported by a Spanish team.
A Canadian study published this month estimated that this year's vaccine provides 71 percent protection overall and 74 percent protection against 2009 H1N1 — the predominant strain in North America this season. A mix of 2009 H1N1, H3N2, and B has been seen in Europe.
According to the lead author of the Canadian study, the differences in the study population, along with differences in the circulating viruses, may help explain the contrasting findings.
Danuta Skowronski, MD, lead author of the Canadian study, cited several factors in an interview with CIDRAP News today that might contribute to the difference between the Spanish and Canadian estimates. Doctor Skowronski is the lead epidemiologist for flu and emerging respiratory pathogens at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control in Vancouver.
She noted that more than 90 percent of flu viruses in both Canada and the United States this season have been 2009 H1N1, whereas Europe is seeing a mix. She also she pointed out that about a third of the patients in the Spanish study were elderly people, who respond less well to vaccines, compared with only about 10 percent in the Canadian study.
In the United States, no preliminary estimates of flu vaccine effectiveness have been published yet this season but are expected soon.
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