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Flu jab effectiveness questioned

Reuters | October 28 2006

Thousands of Britons get their annual flu jabs at this time of year, but a leading health expert is questioning whether they do any good.

Tom Jefferson says that because the virus changes from year to year, it is difficult to assess the vaccine's effectiveness.

Jefferson, co-ordinator of the vaccine group at the Cochrane Collaboration in Rome, which reviews health treatments,
said most of the research that has looked into the impact of flu vaccines is of poor quality.

He believes part of the problem is the difficulty in distinguishing between influenza and influenza-like illnesses, particularly during the peak flu seasons, and the lack of accurate and fast surveillance systems.

"This confusion leads to a gross overestimation of the impact of influenza, unrealistic expectations of the performance of vaccines and spurious certainty of our ability to predict viral circulation and impact," he wrote in the British Medical Journal.

He called for more research to assess the effectiveness of flu vaccines.


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