It takes several months to produce an influenza vaccine to target flu strains for the next flu season, which is why public health experts will soon gather to discuss which strains should be targeted for the 2018-2019 flu season, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a news release.
“Although some factors are beyond our control, such as the ability of the flu virus to change rapidly as it circulates, there are steps that we can take to ensure that the seasonal influenza vaccine protects as many individuals as possible,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., in the statement.
As a result, the FDA is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other federal partners “to address the full spectrum of measures that need to be taken to ensure optimal protection against the flu. These measures include working to select the most appropriate flu strains for inclusion in seasonal influenza vaccines, providing seed viruses and quality control reagents to manufacturers, and ensuring the overall quality of the manufacturing process.”
The agency issued the statement in response to questions raised about the effectiveness of this year’s flu vaccine. This year’s flu season has been widespread, impacting millions across the country with high rates of hospitalizations for both the flu and its complications, which include pneumonia and the exacerbation of chronic conditions such as asthma and congestive heart failure.
While getting vaccinated is one of the best known ways one can protect himself from the flu, reports that the overall effectiveness of this year’s flu vaccine is only 36 percent has raised concerns. “There is clearly significant room for improvement,” Dr. Gottlieb said.
The FDA, CDC and NIH are working together to develop the a vaccine for next year’s flu season that targets three or four of the most likely influenza viruses of the season – two influenza A types (H1N1 and H3N2) and one (trivalent) or two (quadrivalent) types of influenza B. This is done by collecting and reviewing data on the circulating strains of influenza around the world to Identify those likely to cause the most illness in the upcoming season.
“Once the strains are selected, the FDA produces materials in our laboratories that are critical for making the vaccine,” Dr. Gottlieb said. “Ultimately, developing a universal influenza vaccine that provides protection against many different strains of flu from year-to-year would be ideal,” he said. “However, the reality of such a vaccine is likely to still be several years away.”
Source: FDA News Release