What’s new Influ2day…?

Annoying things I read in the Australian online news media today…

  • ‘Super vaccines’
    For those confused – and from what I’ve seen on FaceBook, confusion about this season’s influenza (flu) vaccine program abounds – these are 2 newly introduced vaccines that are only for use in those aged 65 years and above. When these vaccines are released (free to this target population) – they will provide enhanced protection by either (i) having 4-times more of the active ingredient flu virus bits they include, or (ii) by having an adjuvant which is an additive that helps boost the immune response to the flu bits the vaccine injects. Both only cover 3 flu virus strains this year.
  • 2018 will be a mild season
    It well might. Or it might not. So far this year we’ve recorded more cases than ever before (see Is increased testing at the root of Australia’s biggest ever first quarter of Flu cases…? [1]) but that doesn’t mean it will be a bigger peak. It does mean that there have been more cases identified so far.
  • On average, a healthy adult has a 5 to 10% chance of catching the flu.
    That is, among those tested for flu who are ill with the flu, about 5-10%. How many have mild or no symptoms but test flu positive? This figure probably doesn’t scratch the surface of how many flu infections occur. 
  • Pandemic at any moment because of the unexplained emergence of new strains.
    New flu virus strains are constantly appearing; whether we’ve looked and characterised them is another story. Perhaps this os occurring more frequently. Perhaps surveillance is just better, more widespread and being funded. Nothing new to see here and certainly not anything worthy of such emotive language as “unexplained”, “could lead to”, “all that has changed”, “potentially fatal viruses” – this story had it all.
  • Deadly flu strain.
    Every season flu strains are deadly; they kill some people. This is fact. But warnings issued about “what could be a potentially deadly strain” are, again, overly emotive. Do we need to use fear to bully people into getting vaccinated? I don’t think that helps. I don’t think it’s helped so far. Certainly not to build trust. Perhaps use of a few more words could explain the real risks more clearly with plain and relevant language.
    Speaking of honesty, urging vaccination “to ensure they have protected ahead of time” is disingenuous. Vaccination does not ensure immunisation. I think making it very clear what the likely range of flu vaccine effectiveness is going to be about 20-60% would be a much more open and honest path. Building trust between science, medicine and the public is an essential outcome for our future progress.

This has been What’s new Influ2day.


  1. Is increased testing at the root of Australia’s biggest ever first quarter of Flu cases…?

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