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poor vaccine protection against H3N2

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    Posted: October 13 2017 at 8:05am

Study warns of possible repeat poor vaccine protection against H3N2 in seniors

Low influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) in seniors against the H3N2 flu strain last season could show the same pattern this season, since H3N2 is still the dominant global strain and current vaccines still contain the same H3N2 component, European researchers warned today in Eurosurveillance.

After analyzing the latest report from the Influenza Monitoring Vaccine Effectiveness in Europe (I-MOVE) network, researchers provided final estimates against H3N2 hospitalizations for people age 65 and older for the previous season, which show overall VE of 17% in the group, which is lower than the early estimate of 23.4% reported in February. In people older than 80, VE was especially low, at 13%.

The scientists weren't able to measure VE against 2009 H1N1 and influenza B, because of the small number of cases. VE against those strains is usually reported to be higher.

When they compared findings in people who weren't vaccinated in the 2015-16 or 2016-17 seasons, vaccination in the earlier season seemed to have a modifying effect on effectiveness during the latter season. Though the authors said the results were too imprecise to be conclusive, the results suggest that patients vaccinated in both seasons benefited from residual protection from the earlier season, with no added effect from the 2016-17 vaccine.

Flu vaccine protection against H3N2 is known to be unpredictable, and the I-MOVE reserachers noted that most circulating H3N2 viruses last season were considered antigenically similar to the vaccine virus, though they underwent genetic diversification with the emergence of subclusters within clade 3C.2a and subclade 3C.2a1. In September, the World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine advisors recommended changing the H3N2 component of the Southern Hemisphere's vaccine for the 2018 season.

"Close monitoring of virological surveillance data will be required to prompt early promotion of complementary measures such as the use of antivirals or non-pharmaceutical interventions," the iMove team wrote.
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