Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said although the flu vaccine's efficacy isn't as high as they would like -- and it is less effective for seniors -- boosting coverage with the current vaccine could raise the number of prevented illnesses, clinic visits and hospitalizations.
"We wish that influenza vaccines worked better than they do but we know that influenza vaccines are the best way to protect yourself from influenza. And influenza is really common. If we had higher coverage -- vaccination rate -- against influenza, if we had 70 percent of the country vaccinated instead of about 45 percent of the country vaccinated we could have prevented 30,000 more hospitalizations," Dr. Ann Schuchat, CDC's director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters.
"One day we'll probably have a really, really super duper influenza vaccine with higher effectiveness in the most vulnerable. But today we don't. The vaccines we have right now can save lives and can prevent hospitalizations. One group we're particularly interested in is younger adults."
The elderly consistently get an influenza vaccination every year, but if more of adults age 65 and younger would be vaccinated they would protect not only themselves from the flu, but the most vulnerable as well -- the very very young, the very old and the very sick, Schuchat said.
"We have under estimates for the total protection that the community or population benefits from the flu vaccination because we do think that influenza vaccine protects one's self but can reduce the chances you'll spread the flu to those around you, particularly babies under six months who are too young to be vaccinated and the frail elderly whose immune system doesn't respond as well to the vaccine."