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New Flu Vaccine, What's In It?


Roll up your sleeves, America. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the flu vaccine for the 2010-2011 influenza season, and it contains a trio of viral strains. (Sorry, a vaccine patch is not yet available.)

Eight Flu Vaccines in the Market

Seven manufacturers are offering eight flu vaccines, all of which contain A/California/7/09 (H1N1)-like virus that caused the pandemic in 2009; A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus; and B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus. One manufacturer, Sanofi-Pasteur Inc., has made two vaccines, one being a newly approved inactivated trivalent vaccine (Fluzone High-Dose) that is an alternative for people 65 years and older.

Several changes have been made in the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and by some vaccine makers, but perhaps the most important is that the CDC is now recommending that all people aged 6 months and older get vaccinated. Previously, the CDC had recommended vaccinations for people who were at increased risk for complications from flu (including those who had health conditions), children aged 6 months through 18 years of age, and anyone who had close contact with high-risk individuals.

An estimated 5 to 20 percent of Americans develop the flu each year, according to the CDC, with an accompanying 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations associated with flu complications. The new recommendations may bring those numbers down.

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Some other changes include new labelling for one vaccine, CSL Limited’s Afluria, which now warns of an increased incidence of fever and febrile seizure, which was observed mostly in children younger than 5 years old after they received the 2010 Southern Hemisphere formula. CSL Limited will not be providing the United States with the doses used in very young children.

Other changes include an expansion of age indications for several vaccine brands, including Fluarix (GlaxoSmithKline), which is now approved for people 3 years and older; Afluria (CSL), which is now approved for people aged 6 months and older; and a new vaccine, Agriflu (Novartis), suitable for persons aged 18 years and older. More changes and information about the 2010-2011 flu vaccines can be seen on the CDC website.

Karen Midthun, MD, acting director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, noted that “The best way to protect yourself and your family against influenza is to get vaccinated every year. The availability of a new seasonal influenza vaccine each year is an important tool in the prevention of influenza related illnesses and death.”

As always, there is a chance that the virus strains chosen by the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will not perfectly match the strains that affect the population. However, the CDC and FDA assure consumers that even if there is not an exact match, the new flu vaccine may help reduce symptom severity and lower the risk of complications.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Food and Drug Administration



Did the 2009 strains originate in Australia only?