The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 29 children have died from the flu this season. It has been considered a rather high start to our season for the virus with reports of 48 states having widespread influenza activity.
Vaccine shortages have also caused many people to delay or skip the shot. This has not necessarily caused more people to contract the flu, but it certainly is not helping with the aggressive virus. Though it is not helping the current season much, the FDA has approved a new flu vaccine that should bring less shortages next season.
A key advantage to the new formula named Flublok is the ability to grow the vaccine in insect cells rather than chicken eggs. It also contains ingredients needed to fend off more than one strain of the virus. Initial tests have shown it was 44.6% effective against all influenza strains in circulation.
Protein Science is producing the vaccine and it is expected to be in full production by early next season. Availability of Flublok this season was extremely limited due to its approval timing. To start, the new product will only available for people 18 to 49 years old.
Thousands of Americans can not get the current vaccine due to being allergic to eggs or observing a vegan diet. With the new vaccine growing on cells, it will allow faster production that will hopefully cut down most shortage issues.
Overall safety of producing Flublok will be increased since it does not require the use of a live virus. Consumers will not contract the the flu from the vaccine because it contains no trace of the live virus.
Flublok contains the elements necessary to help fend off three different flu strains, including H1N1 and H3N2, the CDC reported. It proved 44.6% effective against all influenza strains in circulation, not just those that matched the strains included in the vaccine.
Drug manufacturer Novartis has also been approved for Flucelvax, which is another version of the vaccine that is not based on egg products. It is produced by using cultured animal cells. Similar increases in production time are expected due to not handling the live virus and utilizing eggs. Other vaccines like polio, rubella and hepatitis A are already using the cell culture technology with great success. The age limitations of adults between 18 and 49 are still present with Flucelvax.
Next year could see a tremendous drop in shortages and cases of the virus if the two new available options are as effective as early reports claim.