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New Flu Vaccine Targets Influenza’s Most Notorious Strains

The most worrisome and important words for the upcoming 2017-18 influenza season continue to be H1N1, H3N2 and B Victoria.

With research, trends and statistics pointing to these three flu strains being the most prevalent and contagious in the United States and North American, the World Health Organization has designed its 2017-18 flu vaccine to target these specific public health nuisances.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Controls and the U.S. Surgeon General’s office recommend a flu vaccine as the first and best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu, especially for influenza’s most vulnerable targets: very young children, pregnant women and elderly citizens. The CDC advises annual influenza vaccinations for everyone six months of age or older who doesn’t have contraindications. Vaccinations can decrease flu illnesses, doctors’ visits and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. According to CDC reports, over 100 children died during the 2016-17 U.S. flu and influenza season. The good news: Nearly 60 percent of American children six months or older were vaccinated last season.

That number is still too low for doctors’ liking to protect all of the nation’s children and influenza’s main targets this season.

“If the data are similar to the data presented in previous years, the vast majority of these (pediatric deaths) will be unvaccinated children,” said Dr. William Schaffner, representative on the committee’s Influenza Working Group told CNN.com. “That is my prediction.”

The three-component 2017-18 trivalent U.S. flu vaccine has been designed to contain these viruses:

  1. an A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
  2. an A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus
  3. a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus

For quadrivalent vaccines, all three trivalent vaccines are targeted along with the B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus.

The CDC is again giving a thumbs down to FluMist, the popular quadrivalent live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV4), which is given by nasal spray. As it did last year, the CDC is recommending the spray – which boasts a less-than-50-percent success rate (46 percent, according to several studies) at repelling the flu – not be used in any settings during the 2017-18 flu season.

“This recommendation hasn’t really changed, it’s just been broadened to include all types of influenza vaccine (trivalent or quadrivalent IIV or recombinant) except LAIV,” said Pamela Rockwell, D.O., of Ann Arbor, Mich., who served as the American Academy of Family Physicians’  liaison to the ACIP for the 2017-18 vaccine conference.

The data is indisputable: A vaccination is our best defense against the flu during the sickliest time of the year. MedImmune’s Dr. Chris Ambrose, who fronted the company’s 2015-16 vaccine effectiveness study, found the fly shot to deliver 65 percent success in allowing patients to avoid the flu.

“That’s the story of flu vaccine, year in, year out,” Schaffner said. “Although we can’t guarantee it will prevent every case of flu, it still prevents many.”

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