Paquita Bonillo, 84, receives her fourth dose of the Covid-19 and flu vaccine in the garden of the Feixa Llarga Nursing Home on September 26, 2022 in Barcelona, Spain.
Zowy Voeten | Getty Images
The flu vaccine was 68% effective at preventing hospitalizations in children, but was less protective for seniors this season. This is according to preliminary data published on Wednesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The vaccine was 35% effective in preventing hospitalization in the elderly in one study and 42% effective in another analysis.
In people with weak immune systems, the vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalization by 44% in one study and by 30% in another.
The flu hit early this season as weekly hospitalization rates peaked in December and have been declining since then, according to CDC data. Influenza has caused 25 million illnesses, 280,000 hospitalizations and 18,000 deaths since October. More than 100 children have died from the flu this season.
The number of flu cases rose last fall after two years of the virus circulating at low levels due to masking and social distancing measures put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr. Jose Romero, head of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said the current circulation of Covid, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus is putting significant pressure on hospitals and drug supply chains in the US.
“After a brief and expected spike in hospitalizations and cases around the holidays, we are now seeing continued declines in Covid, influenza and RSV cases and hospitalizations nationally,” Romero told the CDC’s Independent Advisory Committee on Wednesday.
“While flu activity is declining, it remains possible that a second wave could occur later in the season, as has occurred in the past,” Romero said.
Children and the elderly are usually at the highest risk of serious illness from the flu. About 52% of children and 70% of seniors received the flu vaccine by the end of January, according to CDC data. The CDC recommends seasonal vaccinations for everyone 6 months of age and older.
The effectiveness of flu vaccines can vary greatly from season to season, depending on how well the strains contained in the shots match the circulating viruses. Dr. Lisa Grohskopf, a CDC official, said vaccines and circulating flu strains have been fairly well-matched this season.
Hospitals were hit last fall by the simultaneous spread of Covid, flu and respiratory syncytial virus. The Children’s Hospital Association called on the Biden administration to do so declare a public health emergency in November she called the increase in hospitalized children at the time “alarming”.
While vaccinations against Covid and flu are widely available, there are no vaccines against RSV. Several companies are developing injections for older adults that could win Food and Drug Administration approval this year.
Pfizer is developing a vaccine that protects infants against RSV, and Sanofi has asked the FDA to approve an antibody called nirsevimab that also protects children under two.
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