Dec. 4 to Dec. 10 is “National Influenza Vaccination Week” and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is pushing hard for children and adults to get immunized against the flu. Colorful advertisements warn us to get our flu shots from the walls of our doctor’s offices, pharmacies and grocery stores. According to the CDC, getting the flu shot is a matter of life and death. Flu shots, we are told, save lives.
At the same time, government officials have been lamenting that influenza vaccination rates are concerningly low in the U.S. and seem to be falling. Fewer than 50 percent of Americans currently heed the government’s call to get their annual flu shot.
Part of the reluctance seems to stem from questions about efficacy, raised by data coming directly from the CDC. Why get a flu shot if the flu shot does not work?
In February the CDC revealed that the 2014-2015 influenza vaccine had an efficacy rate of only 19 percent. If that was not bad enough, in June the CDC’s committee that advises on immunization practices announced that nasal spray flu vaccines should not be used in the 2016-2017 flu season because, in the CDC’s own words, “no protective benefit could be measured” from taking them.