A warning has been circulated that the main strain of influenza has mutated since the flu vaccine was prepared, which effectively means the flu jab already given to millions of people in the UK, is ‘useless’
Health officials made the admission amid warnings that the number of deaths this winter will be the worst for 15 years.
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The Telegraph reports: Public Health England (PHE) warned that the main strain of influenza in circulation – which is particularly lethal among the elderly – has mutated from the type that was used in the jab.
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As a result, it is working in just three per cent of people given it, when it is normally effective in around half of cases.
And it has no effectiveness at all against the dominant strain of flu in circulation this winter, which is particularly dangerous in the elderly.
GPs are being urged to prescribe antiviral drugs to prevent cases in the most vulnerable, and in care homes where viruses are spreading.
The alert follows research on more 1,300 patients hospitalised with flu in the UK.
But questions are being asked about why health officials had not raised the alarm earlier, with concern that the rising number of cases of flu in those who had been vaccinated was not properly tracked.
Official data shows that as recently as December, PHE labs were monitoring samples of just 15 cases a week involving patients with the strain.
Last month, after The Telegraph highlighted doctors’ concerns that mutations in the
influenza virus were fuelling a rise in emergency hospital admissions, health officials said there was no evidence that the drift variant would become the dominant strain.
The current flu season has been dominated by circulation of influenza A(H3N2) subtype viruses.
Today, health officials said the surge in cases has resulted in care home outbreaks, hospitalisations and a rise in deaths in those over 65 years, health officials have said.
Latest figures show that the number of “excess deaths” this winter – those caused by flu and cold weather – is one third higher than average.
It was around two months ago that we reported a similar scenario in the United States when the Center for disease control (CDC) admitted the flu vaccine did not work because the virus had mutated. As with most things, the UK always seem to be a few months behind events in the US.