23% Effective


I had brought up the crappy effectiveness of the flu before and got hammered on my own blog.   I am not anti-vaccine. I am anti-shitty products.  This year’s flu is now found to be 23% effective. That sucks, people.  And that is my point.  Tracking effectiveness of the flu shot is new for the CDC.  Why? I have no idea.

The CDC began regularly tracking the effectiveness of the flu vaccine during the 2004-2005 season, but the results for the first few years were from smaller studies and are considered less reliable. Effectiveness has ranged from 47 percent to 60 percent in the last half-dozen years, when studies involved larger numbers of patients.

You will continually lose ground in convincing patients to get the flu shot if the effectiveness is poor. That is reality.  So does anyone else think we need a better product?

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  9 comments for “23% Effective

  1. LWR
    January 21, 2015 at 11:14 pm

    OK, You go mucking around villages in China and swabbing noses of sniffling kids and pigs to determine the most likely next flu strains. Lets see if your “shitty product” will be any better.

    • Doug Farrago
      January 22, 2015 at 5:47 am

      You need a laxative. Idiot.

  2. branden Tarlow
    January 21, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    you’re right. more research dollars for a multi-year vaccine that will provide cross resistance to different strains. the current annual vaccine is inefficient and it’s reasonable this year for patients to express skepticism (i continue to recommend)

  3. tad hominem
    January 19, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Doug: stick to the ACA and MOC. u still come off like a grumpy old dude who likes 2 complain. and that is my turf. Nice if they could up the efficacy of the vaccine, but since current process uses a best guess 5 monthsb4 flu season, doubt it will get better UNTIL there is a faster method of manufacture so it can be made with a better guess closer 2 the season.

  4. politovski
    January 17, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    we do all the time. consider that with crestor we need to treat way more than 100 people for 5 years to save one life, if you are to believe JUPITER. 23% is roughly an NNT of 5, which isn’t bad. treating blood pressure is an NNT of 400 and we recommend that everyone needs a bp of an amoeba. so, the flu shot isn’t 100%. so what? is anything close? not really. but we also need policies in place to limit the spread. allow schools to close on the order of the health department, allow nursing homes to restrict visitations, allow people to stay home and not get fired for getting the flu….

    • Doug Farrago
      January 18, 2015 at 7:01 am

      I also look at NNT. In fact, I go to http://www.thennt.com for info. That being said, cholesterol drugs are VERY EFFECTIVE at lowering LDL but their NNT for outcomes suck. So is there a benefit of lowering LDL in primary prevention? I will keep my thoughts to myself on that for now. Statins wouldn’t have been approved if they lowered LDL only 23% of the time. First you have to prove you can lower a marker (like LDL) then can lowering that marker improve an outcome (debatable). All I am saying is that we have a shitty product here in the flu shot. There should be accountability for that and a plan to improve efficacy in the future.

      • Politovski
        January 18, 2015 at 9:33 am

        I couldn’t agree more, Doug. But, that being said, cholesterol medications only do something important for our patients at best less than 1% of the time in primary prevention.

  5. JRDO
    January 17, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Absolutely 23% effectiveness sucks. Absolutely we need a better product. But, are you implying we should not use the vaccine at all? I would not agree with that.

    • Doug Farrago
      January 17, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      No, but it does make you wonder. Would you prescribe a drug that was only 23% effective? At what number would you NOT recommend the flu shot? 12%? 8%?

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