Reassessing Flu Shots as the Season Draws Near – NYTimes.com

Just what one needs during the flu season: uncertainty about the effectiveness of flu shots. In the end, the recommendation is still in favour of the flu shot, just not to believe it is 100 percent effective (I had my flu shot last week as I am in the ‘at risk’ category). And the obligatory reminder to wash one’s hands. Quote:

“I’m an insider,” Dr. Osterholm said. “Until we started this project, I was one of the people out there heavily promoting influenza vaccine use. It was only with this study that I looked and said, ‘What are we doing?’”

He still considers himself a “a pro-vaccine guy,” Dr. Osterholm said.

“I say, ‘Use this vaccine,’” he said. “The safety profile is actually quite good. But we have oversold it. Use it — but just know it’s not going to work nearly as well as everyone says.” ….

C.D.C. officials say population-based studies show that elderly people who get flu shots are less likely to die of any cause than elderly people who do not get them. Critics say these studies suffer from what’s called the healthy vaccine recipient effect and prove only that older people who are in good health and take care of themselves go to the doctor regularly — and get flu shots.

Many of these are big-picture concerns that an individual patient cannot do much about. The reassuring news is that even critics of the influenza vaccines agree that serious complications are rare.

Another option for those who want to reduce their risk of influenza and flulike infections may be simply this: Wash your hands more often. There is good evidence this works.

Reassessing Flu Shots as the Season Draws Near – NYTimes.com.

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