April 24, 2013
Flu Season Winds Down; It’s Time to Prepare for
the Next One

Atlanta—It was quite an influenza season, but now that it is winding down, the CDC is no longer urging pharmacists and other health care professionals to push vaccination for this season.

“CDC routinely recommends vaccination as long as influenza viruses are circulating, but since it takes two weeks for vaccine to become protective and flu activity is winding down, the window for vaccination this season is closing,” according to the CDC’s “Immunization Works” publication.

The exception would be for those likely to be traveling to the Southern Hemisphere, where influenza may be circulating, and for children younger than 9 who are being vaccinated against influenza for the first time and still have not gotten their second recommended dose of vaccine, according to the CDC.

A total of 134.9 million doses of seasonal influenza vaccine were distributed for the 2012–2013 season, compared to 132.1 million in the previous season, the agency reported.

Public health officials still recommend that people at high risk from flu complications, including people 65 and older, seek antiviral treatment quickly if they develop flu symptoms, including cough, fever, sore throat, and body aches.

“Antiviral treatment can prevent serious outcomes and should begin as quickly as possible in high-risk persons, including people 65 and older, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and neurological disorders,” the CDC said.

In general, though, public health officials recommend that pharmacies and other immunization sites turn their attention to the 2013-2014 flu season, noting that vaccine ordering has begun.

“As the 2012–2013 flu season has shown, it is important to prebook vaccine as soon as it is available,” the CDC noted. It also pointed out that, even though some quadrivalent vaccine will be available during the 2013–2014 season, supplies will be limited, and most of the of the flu vaccine offered next season will still be trivalent.

The FDA’s vaccine advisory panel endorsed the World Health Organization Northern Hemisphere flu vaccine recommendations for 2013-2014 and said that the “B’ strain used in this year's vaccine should be changed to offer a better match against B strains causing some influenza illnesses.

The trivalent vaccine will contain the following:

• an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus;
• an A(H3N2) virus antigenically like the cell-propagated prototype virus A/Victoria/361/2011;
• a B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus.

Quadrivalent vaccines that include two influenza B viruses should include the above three viruses and a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus, according to WHO.

Quadrivalent vaccines already approved by FDA include GlaxoSmithKline’s Fluarix Quadrivalent for adults and children, 3-years-old and older, and MedImmune’s FluMist Quadrivalent (Influenza Vaccine Live, Intranasal) for ages 2 to 49.

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect