Flu Activity Is Up Amid Questions About Vaccine Effectiveness

Dec 12, 2017

Credit Senior Airman Areca T. Wilson/ U.S. Air Force

Several areas throughout Illinois are experiencing heightened flu activity, and one preliminary report shows the flu vaccine may only be 10% effective.  


The numbers show this is already a more active flu season. At this time last year, Memorial Medical Center in Springfield had treated 14 cases of influenza. So far this year: 93 cases. Some doctors simply say the flu is peaking sooner this year, but the effectiveness of this year’s flu shot is also a concern.

Steven O’Marro, an infection preventionist, says despite possibly being less effective, the flu shot still serves a purpose. “It still provides some degree of protection against the flu that you might not otherwise have," he said. "What we’re trying to is encourage people who have strong immune systems especially to get the influenza vaccination, because their ability to fight the flu and not have it will decrease transmission.”

Heather Ren, with HSHS St. John's Hospital in Springfield says even in a good year, the flu vaccine is roughly 60% effective. “The flu virus is ever-changing," she said. "It mutates as it goes from person to person, that’s why it’s so hard to predict what season we’ll have.”

Central Illinois has been hit particularly hard this flu season, with Litchfield schools being forced to shut down last week due to a high number of absences.

The Illinois Department of Public Health says as of last week, there have been 45 flu-related ICU admissions and one pediatric death across the state.