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General Health : Government Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

FDA: Get flu vaccine now!
By Ben Wasserman
Sep 29, 2008 - 11:40:15 AM

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Monday Sep 29, 2008 ( -- The Food and Drug Administration on Friday issued a consumer advisory on flu vaccines after the CDC unveiled its recommendation that children ages from 5 months to 18 years should get flu shot for the 2008-2009 season.


The FDA said that “Vaccination is the key component of influenza prevention”.  Flu, short for influenza, is a virus-induced, contagious respiratory illness and there are two forms of vaccines to use to prevent the infection, flu shot that containing inactivated or killed, influenza viruses and nasal vaccine called FluMist containing weakened, live viruses.


Although the peak flu season has not arrived yet, the FDA as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said autumn is the best time to get vaccinated.


This year, according to the FDA, six vaccines are available to protect against influenza virus types A and B including


    * Afluria, for adults 18 years of age and older

    * Fluarix, for adults 18 years of age and older

    * FluLaval, for adults 18 years of age and older

    * Fluvirin, for people 4 years of age and older

    * Fluzone, for people 6 months of age and older

    * FluMist, for people ages 2 to 49


CDC said that the manufacturers of the six vaccines were expected to make 146 million doses for this flu season.


The efficacy of flu vaccine is always low.   Often the efficacy is no more than 45 percent.


"One of the biggest challenges in the fight against influenza is producing new vaccines every year," says Jesse L. Goodman, M.D., M.P.H., Director of FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. "There is no other instance where new vaccines must be made every year. The approval of flu vaccines is a part of FDA's mission to promote the health of Americans throughout the year."


For flu vaccine makers to make a vaccine, experts at the FDA and other organizations first determine the target virus strains the flu vaccines protect against.   This year, the FDA said it changed all three strains for this year's influenza vaccine. Normally, only one or two strains are updated from year to year.


All vaccines for this year contain the following strains:


    * an A/Brisbane/59/2007 (H1N1)-like virus

     * an A/Brisbane/10/2007 (H3N2)-like virus

    * a B/Florida/4/2006-like virus


The FDA said in its advisory that health professionals need also to get vaccinated against influenza.   The agency cited studies as showing that only about 4 in 10 health professionals are vaccinated every year.   The food and drug watchdog also said “those that don’t get flu shots can cause influenza outbreaks in health care settings.”

Each year in the US, an average of 5 to 20 percent of the population get flu  resulting in more than 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths.


Critics have said the death toll may be inflated and they said the majority of deaths result actually from pneumonia, which causes symptoms similar to that of flu.



For More Information


FDA's Flu Information Web Site


Information on Approved Influenza Vaccines


FDA Approves 2008-2009 Flu Vaccines


Health Care Personnel Initiative to Improve Influenza Vaccination Toolkit

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