CDC: Seniors less protected with this year's flu vaccine

By Kelly McCarthy

February 22, 2013 Updated Feb 22, 2013 at 7:26 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The Centers for Disease Control say this season's flu shot is only protecting seniors nine percent of the time from the most dangerous flu strain.

The vaccine is 56 percent effective for all age groups, which is a typical result.

The finding have nurses at the Broome County Health Department scratching their heads. This year's flu vaccine was a nearly perfect match for the more harmful influenza B strain.

"And that's what makes this so unusual. It was a great match," said Marianne Yourdon, Broome County Health Department. "In fact as long as I've been doing this I don't remember a 99.5 percent match of the H3N2, the bad virus that's caused the most illness."

For adults over the age of 65 the CDC found the vaccine only nine percent effective against the H3N2 strain. The vaccine is 27 percent effective against all three strains in that age group.

'So why, why did we have a bad season?" Yourdon said. "Again, seniors do have a weaker immune system and it may be that this particular virus strain was better able to invade the immune system."

The First Ward Senior Center has been seeing a decline in seniors coming to spend their free time. The supervisor said over the past few weeks a lot of them have been staying home sick, or even hospitalized.

"It's just we've had more people sick this year, more people not coming in because they've been sick," said First Ward Supervisor Elisabeth Whalen. "And I have to say I'm sure the majority of them had have flu shots."

Edna Melious is almost back to full health after getting sick in January. The first time she's been sick in the past five years.

"I got it and a week later I ran into pneumonia and I still have a bad cough and stuffy head," said Melious.

The supervisor said it is unusual to have so many members battling sickness.

"I've been here for years and we've always had them given flu shots here, and I've never seen this happen before," Whalen said.

Influenza is one of the nation's leading killers. A yearly vaccine is the best protection available.

"My first reaction was concern that maybe the public and especially seniors would not think it's worth their while to get the vaccine," Yourdon said. "And nothing could be further from the truth."

"I'm still going to get it," said Terry Squires of Binghamton. "I'd still rather end up with a cold or something than the flu."

Any protection is powerful during flu season.

"Nine percent is better than no percent," said Kathy Polhamus of Binghamton. "As I said, I'll take it every year."

The Broome County Health Department says its still not too late to get a flu shot.

Appointments can be scheduled until May.