MONDAY, July 20, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the vaccine to protect against the 2009-2010 seasonal flu, health officials announced Monday.
The agency noted that this vaccine will not protect people from the new H1N1 swine flu that has reached pandemic proportions around the world and is expected to return to the United States in the fall. A separate vaccine to protect against that flu strain is now under development and about to undergo testing. The swine flu vaccine is expected to be available sometime in the fall, according to the FDA.
"The approval of this year's seasonal influenza vaccine is an example of the FDA's important responsibility to assure timely availability of vaccine to help protect the health of the American public," Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, the FDA's commissioner of food and drugs, said in a prepared statement. "A new seasonal influenza vaccine each year is a critical tool in protecting public health."
This year's vaccine contains:
- an A/Brisbane/59/2007 (H1N1)-like virus.
- an A/Brisbane/10/2007 (H3N2)-like virus.
- a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.
These are the seasonal flu strains most likely to be circulating this year. Anyone who wants to get a vaccination can, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the shot is particularly recommended for children 6 months up to 19 years old; pregnant women; anyone 50 and older; people with certain chronic medical conditions; people living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities; and people who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from the flu.
"It's important to have a yearly flu shot," said Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City. "The problem with the yearly flu shot in kids is you often need a second shot. So if we are talking about an H1N1 shot too, you may need four shots, that's the only issue. But both are important."
People should start getting vaccinated for seasonal flu in September and October, but they can get vaccinated as late as "December, January and beyond," according to the CDC.
No vaccine is 100 percent effective, but it's the best protection against flu and can prevent many illnesses and deaths, the FDA said.
People need to get vaccinated each year because the strains of circulating flu differ each year. Every year, experts from the FDA, the CDC, the World Health Organization and elsewhere collect flu virus samples from around the world to identify strains that may cause the most illness during the upcoming season.
Based on these forecasts and on the recommendations of the FDA's Vaccine and Related Products Advisory Committee, the agency determines the strains that should be included in vaccines for the U.S. population. The closer the match between the strains in the vaccine and those circulating, the better the protection against the flu.
It's possible the match between the vaccine and circulating virus is less than optimal. But even in years when the vaccine isn't a good match, a shot can reduce the severity of the flu if you catch it, and it may help prevent flu-related complications, according to the FDA.
Each year in the United States an estimated 5 percent to 20 percent of the population is stricken with the seasonal flu. More than 200,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die. Older people, young children, and people with chronic health problems are at higher risk for flu-related complications.
The FDA said the six vaccines for 2009-2010 and the manufacturers are: Afluria, CSL Limited; Fluarix, GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals; FluLaval, ID Biomedical Corporation; Fluvirin, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Limited; Fluzone, Sanofi Pasteur Inc.; and FluMist, MedImmune Vaccines Inc.
To learn more about seasonal flu, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.