The Flu Vaccine Is 62% Effective – Good Enough for your Software?
Test and Monitor | Posted January 14, 2013

Ah-choo! Hack, sneeze, cough! This year, the flu is reaching what seems like epidemic proportions, at least that's the impression you'd get from watching the news or if you're one of the unlucky victims - or both. The state of New York has issued a State of Emergency, as have several large cities, including Boston

A nationwide study, partly conducted in Pittsburgh, concluded the current vaccine is 62% effective, which is on par with the vaccine‘s effectiveness in prior years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What Percentage Is Good Enough?

Forgive us, but we tend to see everything in life from the perspective of software quality. And the question that arises here, from a quality perspective, is this: Is 62% good enough? Would 62% be a good enough statistic to launch your desktop or SaaS application? Do you think your customers would cheer a statistic like that in your marketing literature? Would you be comfortable knowing that the testing and development software your team was using is 62% free of defects? As a software Devops manager, could you deliver software that was 62% bug free? I think not—in fact statistics like that send shivers up my spine far worse than the aches and pains of the flu!

Granted, the two processes are not synonymous, but quality does link them together. Like software applications and operating systems that are regularly released to the public, such as the iPhone 5's "Do Not Disturb" app and Windows 8, ensuring software quality before the release is issued should be of much higher importance.

Techies Fight Back Against the Flu

One of the interesting things to come out of this flu epidemic is the speed at which techies put together applications to track where you could get a flu shot. As this flu outbreak continues, consider the APIs making it possible for all of us to track the availability of flu vaccine nationally and to also see where outbreaks are getting worse. This is information that only a decade ago would have been impossible to report on, but because of the current API revolution, we have up-to-the-minute statistics and easy ways to get to them. Of course, that’s if the APIs are being monitored and tested properly to make sure they are up to date and compliant with new revisions.

For example, the Code for America group leaders had a brief email exchange at the end of last week, which turned into a fast-moving collaboration with the Chicago Brigade, Chicago Mayor's Office, Chicago Public Health Office, Boston Public Health Commission and MONUM to launch the Boston Public Health Commission free flu vaccine finder application.  And this was done in only 30 hours! The Healthmap Vaccine Finder tracks this nationwide as well.

This flu season struck hard about a month earlier than usual. But despite all those news reports about overcrowded emergency rooms, it’s too soon to say whether it will be worse than normal. In fact, federal health officials said last week it may already have peaked, which is good news if you have been able to escape the misery so far.

According to the CDC, the only defense against the flu now is to develop the most effective vaccine and deliver it to as many people as possible. CDC’s early estimates peg this year’s vaccine at about 60% effective — lower than public health officials would like but in line with recent years and expectations. That means people who got the vaccine are 60% less likely than others to have to go to the doctor because of the flu. According to Politico story mentioned above, today's technology allows only three strains of virus in any flu vaccine. But as soon as next year, the flu vaccine will be able to hold four strains, said Joseph Bresee, head of the CDC’s flu division.

What’s your defense against software quality defects? What percentage do you consider acceptable with regard to bugs and defects when you issue a new product or update? We’d like to hear from you. And we wish you good health!

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