Every year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health experts join forces to look at influenza virus samples and global disease patterns in order to identify the virus strains most likely to cause illnesses this flu season.
As a result of the meeting, the FDA announced this week that it has approved the 2012-2013 influenza (flu) vaccine for all six manufacturers licensed to produce and distribute in the U.S. The strains selected for inclusion for the influenza vaccine this year include A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus; A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus; and B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus.
Vaccines are considered crucial in the prevention of influenza, which is a contagious respiratory disease caused by various influenza viruses infecting the nose, throat and lungs. The 2012-2013 vaccines are designed to protect against three influenza virus strains that have been identified as the most common strains circulating during the upcoming flu season.
The FDA noted that while there’s always a chance the vaccines aren’t an optimal match for the identified virus strains, the vaccines will at minimum reduce the severity of illnesses or help prevent “influenza-related complications.”
In a press release issued by the FDA, FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research director, Karen Midthun, M.D., recommends the best way to prevent influenza is to get an annual vaccination. “It is especially important to get vaccinated this year because two of the three virus strains used in this season’s influenza vaccines differ from the strains included in the last year’s vaccines.”
The CDC predicts that between 5 and 20 percent of the U.S. population develops influenza each year, which results in more than 200,000 hospitalizations nationwide. An annual meeting to approve new vaccinations is crucial as influenza seasons are often severe and can even result in death. The most recent statistics suggest that influenza-related deaths range from 3,000 to 49,000 in the U.S. each year. For this reason, the CDC recommends that all persons six months or older receive an annual influenza vaccine.