Six manufacturers have had their flu vaccines approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for the coming 2011-2012 season. The Agency explained in a communiqué that vaccination is crucial in the drive to control influenza, a contagious respiratory infection caused by influenza virus strains.

This year’s vaccine formulation is aimed at protecting against three virus strains that experts say will be the most common in the coming flu season. This time round they are the same strains as those that circulated during the last flu season.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), from 5% to 20% of Americans develop flu annually. 200,000 people have to be hospitalized because of complications caused by flu. Between 3,000 and 49,000 die each year because of flu.

Karen Midthun, M.D., director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said:

“Vaccines to prevent seasonal influenza have a long and successful track record of safety and effectiveness in the United States. It is important to get vaccinated every year, even if the strains in the vaccine do not change, because the protection received the previous year will diminish over time and may be too low to provide protection into the next year.”

The FDA adds that healthcare personnel need to be vaccinated to protect themselves, their patients, families and the community.

The Agency urges health care organizations to remind their members to get vaccinated, as per CDC recommendations.

The following brand names and companies that make and market the flu vaccines have been approved for the coming season:

  • Fluzone, Fluzone High-Dose and Fluzone Intradermal, Sanofi Pasteur Inc. Fluzone Intradermal is introduced into the skin, not muscle, with a very small needle.
  • Fluvirin, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Limited
  • FluMist, MedImmune Vaccines Inc.
  • FluLaval, ID Biomedical Corporation
  • Fluarix, GlaxoSmithKline Biological
  • Afluria, CSL Limited

Experts from WHO (World Health Organization), FDA, CDC, and other Agencies worldwide identify which virus strains are most likely to cause flu during the coming season. The following strains have been predicted to be circulating:

  • B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus
  • A/Perth /16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus
  • A/California/7/09 (H1N1)-like virus (pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza virus)

The FDA added:

“There is always a possibility of a less than optimal match between the virus strains predicted to circulate and the virus strains that end up causing the most illness. However, even if the vaccine and the circulating strains are not an exact match, the vaccine may reduce the severity of the illness or may help prevent influenza-related complications.

In February 2010 the CDC expanded the recommendation for annual influenza vaccine to include everybody aged at least 6 months. (Link)

Written by Christian Nordqvist