One of the most vulnerable, at-risk groups of catching the flu and suffering some of its more serious side effects - seniors - aren't being helped much by this year's flu shot. It's doing a startlingly poor job of protecting older people, and has been found to be only 9 percent effective in those 65 or older.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the stats on Thursday, and health officials are baffled as to why this particular age group is not getting the protection it needs. It does, however, explain why so many seniors have been hospitalized with the flu this year.
Despite these findings, the CDC is still recommending that everyone over 6 months old get a flu shot, including the elderly, because some protection is better than none and those who are vaccinated and still get sick may have less severe symptoms.
Across all age groups, the vaccine's effectiveness was found to be just 56 percent, which means that those who got a shot have a 56 percent lower chance of catching the flu. This is a worse figure than in recent years.
In those 65 and older, the vaccine was just 27 percent effective against each of the three strains that it was designed to protect against. That's the worst level in about a decade. It did a particularly poor job in protecting against the worst strain, which is causing more than three-quarters of the flu this year.
While it is known that younger people respond better to flu vaccines, and elderly to have weaker immune systems that don't respond as well an make them more vulnerable to the illness and its complications, health officials said that they do not know why this year's vaccine did quite so poorly in that group.
Hospitalization rates for those 65 and older have been at some of their highest levels in a decade, at 146 per 100,000.