Vaccines Ready For Flu Season

If your practice or facility isn’t vaccinating patients by now, the vaccines are available. Here’s the latest from the FDA.

The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved six vaccines for the 2008-2009 flu season:

  • 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

Manufacturers of the six vaccines project about 146 million doses will be available for this flu season, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Experts from FDA, CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other institutions annually study virus samples and disease patterns collected worldwide in an effort to identify strains that may cause the most illness in the upcoming season. In an unusual occurrence, FDA changed all three strains for this year’s influenza vaccine. Usually, only one or two strains are updated from year to year.

This year’s vaccines include 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

Each year, according to CDC, an average of 5-20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu. More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications. There are about 36,000 flu-related deaths each year. Some individuals-particularly elderly people, young children, and people with chronic medical conditions-are at higher risk for flu-related complications. Vaccination of these groups and of health care personnel is critical.

The flu, or influenza, is a virus-induced, contagious respiratory illness. Symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, chills, extreme exhaustion, and weakness. Vaccination is the key component of influenza prevention.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services offers a Health Care Personnel Initiative to Improve Influenza Vaccination Toolkit on its Web site. The toolkit is comprised of links to several Web sites (CDC, FDA, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), American College of Physicians, and the State of Massachusetts), a presentation, journal articles, fact sheets, and posters for promotion and education about influenza vaccination.

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