Published: Thu, March 01, 2018
Culture&Arts | By Merle Christensen

Amid nightmare flu season, FDA working on next year's vaccine

Amid nightmare flu season, FDA working on next year's vaccine

Centers for Disease Control data shows a recent decline in doctors visits to report flu-like symptoms, but the agency stopped short of confirming if the number of cases had peaked yet.

Flu season isn't over yet and doctors recommend you still get a flu shot if you haven't.

USA health officials Friday said fewer visits to the doctor the previous week - 1 out of 16 - were for fever, cough and other flu symptoms than during the previous two weeks, according to The Associated Press.

Against all types of influenza, its effectiveness is 36 percent; among children aged 6 months through 8 years, its effectiveness is 59 percent. Our current flu season is only about halfway through.

In what Gottlieb called an "especially difficult" season, there have been 97 pediatric flu-related deaths so far.

This year's flu vaccine has proven, in some cases, not to be very effective. By comparison it is 42 percent effective against influenza Type B viruses in Europe.

"Typically, we see a rise in Influenza B towards the end of the flu season".

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So why did this season's vaccines not deliver higher protection against H3N2? Vaccinated patients can still come down with the flu, but their symptoms are likely to be briefer and less severe.

The percentage of visits for influenza-like illnesses dropped from 13 percent to 11 percent of overall visits, according to reporting hospitals and clinics in the most recent DSHS report.

While FluMist has been approved for next year's flu season, Schaffner cautions that the real effectiveness of the reformulated version (both in its ability to fight off flu and to increase childhood vaccination rates) won't be known until it hits the public. The adjuvanted influenza vaccine contains an ingredient meant to boost the immune system's response to the vaccine while high dose vaccines contain four times as much of the influenza material or antigen as standard vaccines.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is already taking steps to improve the flu vaccine's effectiveness for the next flu season, agency Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, wrote in a February 26 statement.

"We must continue to be diligent in doing our part to prevent the spread of flu however possible", he added, "including remembering to wash your hands frequently and staying home when you are sick".

"Pneumonia is a very common secondary infection that people get after having had the flu and you can only test for flu for a very short period of time", Anton said.

The FDA remains committed to determining the root cause for the shortcomings observed in the effectiveness of this season's flu vaccine against H3N2, notifying the public of our work as we gain new insights, and applying what we learn to future vaccine development.

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