Health officials say this year’s flu vaccine should do much better at protecting people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says an analysis of the most common flu strains circulating in the U.S. and elsewhere match the flu strains included in this year’s vaccine.
This should encourage people to go ahead and get vaccinated. Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC acknowledged that last year’s flu season was bad because the mutant strain of Type A flu virus popped up after the vaccines had already been prepared.
The Associated Press quoted Dr. Frieden saying, “Get vaccinated, that’s the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community against flu,” as he rolled up his own sleeve to get his flu shot.
For those people squeamish about needles, this year, for the first time, the vaccine will be available with a needle-free injection called The Pharmajet Stratis “jet injector.”
The flu vaccine is generally 50 to 60 percent effective. Last winter, the mutated H3N2 flu subtype was especially harsh, and the vaccine was only 13 percent effective against the strain. Flu-related illnesses of seniors last year were the highest recorded in the past decade.
That same H3N2 strain is still circulating in other countries, and in low levels in the U.S. says Frieden. “So far, the strains in this year’s vaccine seem likely to match,” he said in his interview with the news media on Thursday. He added that the CDC is also monitoring any fluctuations in the flu strains.
The 2015 flu vaccine
A number of companies produce flu vaccine for use in the United States, and 171 to 179 million doses will be produced. Depending on the brand, both trivalent (three component) and quadrivalent (four component) vaccines can be used.
There are also different routes available for the administration of the vaccine, including intramuscular, intradermal, jet injector, and nasal spray vaccine. Production of the vaccine has already been going on, and 40 million doses of the vaccine have already been shipped to doctors, drug stores and other locations.
Four choices available for administration of the vaccine
We have already talked about the needle-free “jet injector.” Without an external power source, liquid vaccine is forced into a stream of fluid that penetrates the skin. This injection method is only available for adults 18 to 64 years of age and is only used for the delivery of AFLURIA®, a trivalent flu vaccine.
Intramuscular (IM) vaccines will be available in both trivalent and quadrivalent formulations. (High-dose vaccines, which are IM vaccines, will all be in trivalent formulations this season).
The popular alternative to intramuscular injection, nasal spray vaccine will be available as a quadrivalent vaccine this year, and can be used by healthy people ages 2 through 49.
Intradermal injections, or skin-deep shots using tiny needles, are for people allergic to the chicken eggs used in making the vaccines. This year, the vaccine is quadrivalent.
For people ages 65 and over, there is a “high-dose’ vaccine. It is available as a trivalent formulation this year and is recommended for older adults whose immune systems don’t respond as quickly to flu vaccines as younger adults.
In addition to getting vaccinated, Dr. Frieden also urged people who do get the flu to stay home and start taking antiviral drugs within 48 hours after onset of symptoms. There are three FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs recommended by the CDC this season to treat influenza. They include oral oseltamivir (Tamiflu®), inhaled zanamivir (Relenza®), and intravenous peramivir (Rapivab®).