Regarding the Low Flu Vaccine Effectiveness Meme

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Drakkith
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Summary:
Reasons for the supposedly low effectiveness of the flu vaccine.
Good morning everyone. I woke up today and opened up Facebook only to see someone posting a meme about how in 70 years we've only developed a flu vaccine that's 40% effective, yet in 10 months we've developed a COVID-19 vaccine that's 95% effective. The implied meaning here is that the COVID-19 vaccine is a fraud and you shouldn't get it. I spent a few minutes posting a response in the comments and decided that I would make another post here at PF. My response:


1. Influenza (the flu) is caused by a family of related viruses, not a single virus. These are commonly called strains or subtypes, such as H1N1 or H3N2. A vaccine for H1N1 will not be very effective for H3N2 or other types.
2. The influenza viruses have the ability to exchange genetic information when two different types infect one host, which greatly accelerates their genetic mutation rates and also enables them to create new, novel subtypes that have never existed before.
3. Because of the multiple strains and the ability to quickly create novel subtypes, vaccine producers have to make educated guesses as to which subtype will be most prevalent for the coming flue season and target their vaccine accordingly. If they are wrong, then the vaccine will be much less effective.
4. Flu vaccine effectiveness is problematic to measure, as it is measured by using the rates of influenza-like illnesses, which are caused by many different diseases. This is a major reason why the efficacy (effectiveness in a controlled setting) is much higher than the real world effectiveness. It's not that the vaccine is ineffective, it's that a high proportion of people who think they have the flu actually don't.

Do not let fear and suspicion rule your health decisions. Educate yourselves, everyone.

-Drakkith
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
Astronuc
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How to make a vaccine for influenza is well-established, but not so with SARS-Cov-2. The pressure now has been to develop a vaccine for SARS-Cov-2.

With respect to influenza, "The seasonal influenza (flu) vaccine is designed to protect against the three or four influenza viruses that research indicates are most likely to spread and cause illness among people during the upcoming flu season. Flu viruses are constantly changing, so the vaccine composition is reviewed each year and updated as needed based on which influenza viruses are making people sick, the extent to which those viruses are spreading, and how well the previous season’s vaccine protects against those viruses."
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-selection.htm

Most flu vaccines in the United States protect against four different flu viruses (“quadrivalent”); an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and two influenza B viruses. There are also some flu vaccines that protect against three different flu viruses (“trivalent”); an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and one influenza B virus. Two of the trivalent vaccines are designed specifically for people 65 and older to create a stronger immune response.
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm
 
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Laroxe
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People in the antivax community make some fairly common mistakes and variations in the information can be misunderstood and exploited. In fact the immune response to diseases varies with the organisms involved and the people involved. In fact if Covid 19 has any advantages it has spurred a great deal of research which has been greatly increasing our overall knowledge about immunity.

Anyway, the differences in the overall effectiveness of vaccines is irrelevant, these variations occur in all vaccines. In the case of flu the usual estimates are for an effectiveness between 40 - 60% depending on how well the strains in the vaccine match the strains circulating. The vaccines cause a good antibody response but the antibodies appear to be short lived, providing good protection for less than 6 months, people considered most at risk of serious disease like the elderly often have a poorer response.

There is little evidence that the vaccines stimulate the parts of the immune system that lead to lasting immunity though there is some recent evidence that the very first strain a person is exposed to in life, does influence the response to other strains. Work has been ongoing to develop vaccines that are effective across a wider number of strains and which could cause a more enduring effect, but this has been slow. Its likely that the Covid pandemic will speed up these developments.

Its interesting how much has been discovered about immunity recently, really our knowledge has been pretty basic. While Covid 19 has some interesting and novel effects on the body, it seems to be a fairly straightforward virus in terms of vaccine development, all of the standard vaccine technologies seem to work. What is interesting is that the newer technologies, particularly the mRNA vaccines seem to offer both greater effectiveness and greater safety. The indications are that they will also be much easier and faster to produce once we get past the first generation approaches. The link is interesting.
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/201...rising-answers-may-help-protect-people-longer
 
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OmCheeto
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One of the most interesting things I discovered, is that these new vaccines(mRNA), although almost 30 years in the making [ref], have never been used before. (Aside from rat and mouse experiments.)

It was just a few days ago that I discovered this.

Moderna and other vaccines​
44,209 views • Dec 4, 2020​
Dr. John Campbell​
01:49 - 05:08
3⅓ minutes​
"Genetic instructions for building a coronavirus spike protein"
"It's clever, remarkably clever. It's innovative, and the Moderna vaccine is only the second time that this will be the efficacious results for such a vaccine have been published. And the first one of course was the Pfizer one."

Although I don't usually watch TV interviews for my information, Youtube suggested I watch the following. There was some interesting(aka new to me) stuff at the end.

The President of Moderna Gives a Crash Course on COVID-19 Vaccines​
38,097 views • Premiered Nov 30, 2020​
Katie Couric​
27:47 - end
2¾ minutes​
Katie; "Can this virus mutate, ... and create a new strain...?"​
Stephen; "This virus has ... mutated a little bit..."​
He goes on to say that he doesn't think "Covid-19" will evolve to defeat the current vaccines, but says that there will be a new virus in the future, that will be just as bad.​

He also answers the question; "How did this vaccine get developed so fast?"
 
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  • #5
Laroxe
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One of the most interesting things I discovered, is that these new vaccines(mRNA), although almost 30 years in the making [ref], have never been used before. (Aside from rat and mouse experiments.)

It was just a few days ago that I discovered this...

mentor note: removed repeated content...
I like John Cambells stuff on You Tube, he was an epidemiologist and he provides links to the research he uses. Another excellent, if more complex, source on You Tube is called TWiV ( This week in virology) which usually has a varied group of clinicians and researchers discussing the very latest research, its impressive.
 
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  • #6
Office_Shredder
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On the flip side, someone invented a smallpox vaccine in 1796, so obviously they're not all as hard as the flu.
 
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On the flip side, someone invented a smallpox vaccine in 1796, so obviously they're not all as hard as the flu.
It's just that 'vaccine' would not be considered a 'product' by our actual standards and there is no chance that it would get approval in that form, with only that much testing and that level of 'manufacturing'. And those side effects...

Summary:: Reasons for the supposedly low effectiveness of the flu vaccine.

I'm used to provide an analogy for this.
If you make a bullet, then you can be almost 100% sure that it'll leave the barrel once fired.
The 'raw' effectiveness of the flu vaccine is almost 100%.

But to hit the target the target needs to be in range and you have to aim well: especially if it's a moving target - and not just one. Now, that's where you lost that 60% of the efficiency...
 
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