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This season's flu vaccine is overall approx. 45% effective, CDC reports

CDC reports the 2019-20 flu vaccine is approx. 45% effective at completely preventing the flu. Expert says it will reduce severity for all who are vaccinated.

PORTLAND, Maine — The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an analysis of the effectiveness of this season's flu vaccine. It showed the vaccine is overall about 45% effective at completely preventing someone from being infected with influenza. 

For children, the numbers are even better—the vaccine is about 55% effective.

Senior vice president of community health for Maine Health Dr. Dora Mills says even those who aren't completely protected by the vaccine still benefit from it. 

"That means it's about 55% completely effective [for kids], however, if you are vaccinated with the flu vaccine, you're still very protected because people who are vaccinated who are exposed to influenza are going to get a much less severe case in most cases than if they had not been vaccinated," Dr. Mills says.

"45 to 55% effective, I would take that, those are really good odds," Dr. Mills says. "And again, the other 55 to 45% for whom it's not completely effective, it's still somewhat effective."

According to Dr. Mills, this vaccine's effectiveness levels are slightly below average, but not cause for concern.

"You know, it's a little below average, but not by a lot. There are some years when it's really not a good match at all, it's around 30%, and there are other years when it's great, it's in the 80%."

Dr. Mills says the flu vaccine can never be 100% effective because the virus is so complex. 

"It's never 100% because the flu virus itself changes so rapidly, and it takes a few months for them to make the flu vaccine. So from the time they make the flu vaccine to when we get the flu here in the United States, the flu virus has already changed."

The effectiveness of the vaccine on type B of the flu, which hits kids the hardest, is "pretty good," according to Dr. Mills. 

"It's about 50 to 55% effective and that's life-saving!" Dr. Mils says. "They may get the flu still, except they're not going to die from it. The flu vaccine is a big lifesaver even when it isn't as effective as completely preventing it as in years past."

"What we do know is when children get vaccinated and they get the flu, they still get a much less severe case then if they had not been vaccinated. So no matter how effective the flu vaccine is from one year to the next the flu vaccine is still a life-saver," Dr. Mills says. 

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