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How good is the flu shot?

The Associated Press (file)

You may have heard this year’s flu shot is about 60% effective. To be precise, the official estimate is 62%, and it's based on research conducted partially at Group Health Cooperative in Washington.

What does that mean for you? How can someone use that information?

And, how did they arrive at a number like 62%?

KPLU asked one of the lead scientists, Michael Jackson of the Group Health Research Institute, to explain.

Jackson's research several years ago showed that the flu vaccine is not as effective at preventing deaths among the elderly as officials had thought. But he's still a believer in flu shots.

"Influenza vaccine is still the best tool that we have for reducing the risk of influenza in the population," says Jackson. "Sixty-percent is about as good as we can expect for a flu vaccine."

For the complete interview, click the "listen" button above.

As a report from CNN, discussed by our partner blog Humanosphere, notes, two big reasons to recommend the flu shot for everyone, not just vulnerable groups, are: for better communication (to keep the message simple) and to limit how the virus spreads, by creating "herd immunity" among the public. 


Extra Resources

If you haven't had a flu vaccination this year, most medical clinics and pharmacies have plenty of vaccine available, and it's covered by many insurance plans. If you don't have insurance, Public Health Seattle & King County is offering free flu shots at the following locations and times:

Columbia Public Health Center 4400 37th Ave S, Seattle, 206-296-4650 Saturday, Jan. 19, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24 and Thursday, Jan. 31, 3-7 p.m.

Eastgate Public Health Center 14350 SE Eastgate Way, Bellevue, 206-296-4920 Saturday, Jan. 19, 10 a.m.—2 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23 and Wednesday, Jan. 30, 3-7 p.m.

Federal Way Public Health Center 33431 13th Place S, Federal Way, 206-296-8410 Saturday, Jan. 19, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

North Public Health Center 10501 Meridian Ave N, Seattle, 206-296-4765 Saturday, January 19, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22 and Tuesday, Jan. 29, 3-7 p.m.

Keith Seinfeld has been KPLU’s Health & Science Reporter since 2001, and prior to that covered the Environment beat. He’s been a staff reporter at The Seattle Times and The News Tribune in Tacoma and a freelance writer-producer. His work has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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