Due to a report out of Australia, some news agencies are saying that this season’s flu vaccine is only 10 percent effective.

Infectious Disease Specialist with the Missoula County Health Department, Pam Whitney, said one specific strain of the flu has been difficult to contain.

“The strains we have been seeing are ‘influenza A’s’ and they’re H3N2’s,” said Whitney. “They go through this antigenic change every year, so March is when they decide what’s going into the vaccine and we start seeing the cases in September and October. That gives the H3N2 a chance to change. This is a real hard strain to capture to make a good vaccine and that’s exactly what we have seen.”

Whitney addressed the contention that the vaccine is only 10 percent effective.

“You have to remember how this data is collected,” he said. “They find people who have actually come down with the flu and they ask them ‘did you get the flu shot?’ People don’t always remember three or four months back, and if they do remember then they don’t recall just when they got it, so it all depends on how the information is gathered.”

Whitney provides the current numbers of flu victims in Montana.

“We’re about two weeks ahead of where we were last year,” she said. “So far, 613 cases have been confirmed with the majority being the H3N2 and we’ve had 115 people hospitalized across Montana and we’ve had eight deaths.  When you look at last year’s data we’re just about the same, except we’re two weeks ahead. The current vaccine still gives you plenty of protection even against the H3N2.”

Residents can still get the flu vaccine at hospitals, clinics and most pharmacies.

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