As flu cases flood the country’s casualty departments – and have been arriving thick and fast through the festive season – the grim reality has at last been spelled out. This year’s batch of flu vaccine – heavily promoted by doctors and health centres – is “not effective”, writes Correio da Manhã. And this year’s strain of HN₂ flu is on its way to becoming a full blown epidemic.
Admitting this will mean more deaths this year, doctors explained the nitty-gritty behind the escalating problem that has seen some hospitals almost unable to cope with the never-ending stream of patients.
2015’s flu vaccine “began being produced on an international level in February of 2014”, pneumologist Filipe Froes, scientific coordinator for the national programme of infectious respiratory diseases told CM. But the “particularly aggressive” strain of virus now doing the rounds “only began circulating the following month”.
Like all flu viruses, HN₂ most threatens children under the age of 3, the elderly and the chronically ill.
Froes added: “Normally, vaccines offer a level of protection between 60%-70%. This year immunity will be more at the level of 40%-50%.
But that is not the worst of it. The virus is already “very active in the United States and northern Europe” but in Portugal it is “only just beginning”, Froes explained.
“We’re expecting epidemic activity to start within two weeks”, he warned.
According to CM, HN₂ is the strain “responsible for the Hong Kong flu epidemic in 1968/ 69”.
A quick check with Wikipedia will reveal this epidemic was in fact a pandemic and led to the deaths of “an estimated one million people worldwide”.
Thus today’s warning will set alarm bells ringing.
Meantime, specialists stress the fact that although the vaccine is less than effective, it is better to be vaccinated than not.
Explaining the logic for this, Froes told CM “the vaccine protects against two other strains of flu virus” that are also in evidence this winter.