St. Jude is 1 of 9 institutions that help create the yearly flu vaccine

Dr. Richard Webby (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Dr. Richard Webby (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is one of nine institutions that gives recommendations on what strains should be included in the flu vaccine.

According to Dr. Richard Webby with St. Jude, the hospital has been a influenza collaborating center for the World Health Organization since 1975. He said this year's vaccine was a good match to the specific virus that is spreading, with around 60-70 percent effectiveness.

A report published in The New England Journal of Medicine disputes this and says this year's flu vaccine is only about 10 percent effective against the influenza A strain.

This year's flu is one of the worst in recent memory. In fact, more than 100 people have died from the virus in Arkansas alone.

Webby said the vaccine could've been better due to factors like timing and how the vaccine is manufactured.

"We have to make these decisions about the vaccine some six-seven months before the vaccines are actually used," Webby said.

He said the flu strain could change during that gap into something the shot can't fully protect against.

He also said chickens are another somewhat surprising factor on how well the vaccine works.

"This year it's a little bit different in that the strain that was chosen was right. But when that went to the manufacturing plants it went into embryonated chicken eggs, which is how we make flu vaccines, the virus changed," Webby said.

He said the chicken egg mutation is a factor doctors have had to deal with and work around as part of the process.

Webby is planning for a trip to Geneva in a couple weeks to work on the batch of vaccines for the next flu season. He encourages people to go out and get the shot, especially the elderly and children with weaker immune systems than most.

He also said even though we are presently in the formal peak season of the flu, they're could be a second peak later as a second strain makes its way through the population.

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