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How to Predict Next Seasons Flu Vaccine

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, May 12, 2008 8:38 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Flu Season, Influenza, FDA and Prescription Drugs, CDC, American Medical Association, Drug Products

Meeting in Atlanta federal health officials will try and predict next season flu vaccine.



IMAGE SOURCE: iStockPhoto/ flu vaccine given/Millanovic


Next year’s flu season will be the topic in Atlanta this week at the annual influenza vaccine summit meeting.

Both the Centers for Disease Control and American Medical Association will begin making preparations for the 2008-2009 season which begins in the fall.

Top on the agenda- how to make a better educated guess as to which strains of influenza to prepare against.

This year’s flu vaccine was largely ineffective because new strains of the influenza virus were not predicted. Two of the three strains escaped the target of the flu shot making it about 44 percent effective and one of the worst years for flu cases and pneumonia among adults.

An FDA committee met in February to select the influenza virus strains for the 2008-2009 season.  Based on samples gathered from laboratories around the country, the panel recommended that vaccines for next season should contain the:

  • an A/Brisbane/59/2007 (H1N1)-like virus;
  • an A/Brisbane/10/2007 (H3N2)-like virus; *
  • a B/Florida/4/2006-like virus. #

* A/Brisbane/10/2007 is a current southern hemisphere vaccine virus.
#B/Florida/4/2006 and B/Brisbane/3/2007 (a B/Florida/4/2006-like virus) are current southern hemisphere vaccine viruses.

Five flu vaccine makers plan to produce a record number of doses next year – 143 million doses for 2008-2009, compared to 140 million doses produced for 07-08.  

CSL Biotherapies is planning on tripling its production to six million doses hedging its bets that people will not be less likely to get a flu shot because of last year’s miscalculation.

Sanofi Pasteur Inc. will make 50 million doses and Novartis Vaccines will manufactur 40 million.   GlaxoSmithKline PLC will produce from 35 to 38 million doses.  They should be ready by the fall.

In addition there should be about 12 million doses of the nasal spray, FluMist, which contains the live virus. It is approved only for health people, but there is concern that a live virus might infect those with compromised immune systems.

By the fall expect to hear a more aggressive ad campaign urging inoculations in children as young as six months, down from age five. That could boost the demand an additional 30 million doses.  

Annual vaccination against influenza is recommended for all persons including school-aged children; all children aged 6–59 months; everyone 50 and older; children and adolescents (aged 6 months–18 years); and women who will be pregnant during the influenza season, among others.

Pregnant women may want to seek sources of influenza vaccine that are thimerosal-free.

Thimerosal-free vaccines are available in limited quantities each year. Thimerosal is an ethylmercury-based preservative which may have an effect on children leading to autism.

The CDC reports the number of vaccines and their thimerosal content for each influenza season on its web site each year. 

Handwashing is still considered among the top preventative to spreading and contracting the flu.

Every year hundreds of thousands are hospitalized and about 36,000 are killed in the U.S. from the flu.  #

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