Flu vaccine: This is CDC Clinic Chief Nurse Lee Ann Jean-Louis extracting Influenza Virus Vaccine, Fluzone® from a 5 ml. vial.
Flu vaccine: This is CDC Clinic Chief Nurse Lee Ann Jean-Louis extracting Influenza Virus Vaccine, Fluzone® from a 5 ml. vial.Courtesy CDC/Jim Gathany

Did you know back in February scientist and medical professionals selected the influenza virus strains for the upcoming flu season? Now that it is July the pharmaceutical companies are well into manufacturing, purification and testing the vaccine. Meanwhile, it is winter and flu season in the southern hemisphere and the virus is busy mutating. The big question on everyone’s mind is will it mutate so much that the northern hemisphere vaccine will be ineffective?
I agree with Dr. Steven Salzberg remarks in his recent Nature commentary

"The current system, in which most of the world’s vaccine supply is grown in chicken eggs, is an antiquated, inefficient method requiring six months or more to ramp up production, which in turn means that the vaccine strains must be chosen far in advance of each flu season. More crucially it sometimes prevents the use of the optimal strain, as it did in 2007."

Influenza (the flu) is a serious disease
Each year in the United States, on average:

  • 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
  • More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and;
  • About 36,000 people die from flu.

Some vaccine problems in the past
In recent years the match between the vaccine viruses and those identified during the flu season has usually been good. In 16 of the last 20 U.S. influenza seasons, including the 2007-08 season, the viruses in the influenza vaccine have been well matched to the predominant circulating viruses. Since 1988, there has only been one season (1997-98) when there was very low cross-reaction between the viruses in the vaccine and the predominate circulating virus and three seasons (1992-93, 2003-04, and 2007-08) when there was low cross-reaction (CDC). So after last year’s miscalculation the committee picked three new strains for the vaccine this year. One is a current southern hemisphere vaccine virus which they expect will still be present next year. In addition, they predict a second new Type A strain, known as H1N1/Brisbane/59, to also hit, along with a newer Type B/Florida strain.

Dr. Salzberg feels last year’s miscalculation was a failure…

"The harm was thus twofold; people fell ill and their trust in the vaccine system was undermined. This failure could have been predicted, if not prevented, through a more open system of vaccine design, a stronger culture of sharing in the influenza research community and a serious commitment to new technologies for production. The habits of the vaccine community must change for the sake of public health."

He goes on to suggest…

"The process of choosing flu-vaccine strains needs to be much more open. Other scientists, such as those in evolutionary biology with expertise in sequence analysis, could meaningfully contribute to the selection. At present, external scientists cannot review the data that went into the decision, nor can they suggest other types of data that might improve it."

Even with all of these miscalculations, I still feel getting the vaccine is worth the risk. But that doesn’t mean the process shouldn’t be improved. So once again I will be vaccinated and I will make sure my family is too—but what can we do as citizens to improve this process? What will you do?

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What will make the process go quicker? You have this linked twice on the HB SB home page.

posted on Wed, 07/16/2008 - 9:42am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:


I work within the public and handle glasses, plates, silverware etc.

I'm 53 and have always believed in getting a flu shot.

Alot of people I've talked to are afraid but believe me, if anyone could get sick, that would be me.
I'm the only one at work that shows up rain or shine...healthy and thanking the Lord!!

posted on Wed, 10/01/2008 - 11:42pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

what if you hate needols but you whont to be vacinated. Should you try other opins

posted on Mon, 08/04/2008 - 1:28pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Talk to your doctor to find out if FluMist is right for you. FluMist is a spray that you inhale, and it's very effective, but it contains live virus and so isn't recommended for everyone.

posted on Mon, 08/04/2008 - 1:54pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I hate needles with a passion but the pros way outway the cons on this one!!

If you stop to think about it...if you get sick you'll be out of commission at least 2 wks (usually 3).
Think about the expense of your downtime, doc expense and meds not to mention the suffering you'll feel while your in bed not able to eat and constant runs to...well, you know where.

Lots of luck!!

Like I said, I hate needles too but this is one that's well worth my 28 bucks!!

posted on Wed, 10/01/2008 - 11:48pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

what would be the ideal age to start and end getting vaccinated?? for the past couple of years, i haven't been getting vaccinated, and haven't gotten vaccinated. will not getting vaccinated for the past couple of years catch up to mem and make me even more sick??

posted on Fri, 08/08/2008 - 9:58am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

The more imminizations people get, the less able their immune system is to fight off disease.

posted on Wed, 08/20/2008 - 11:53am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Fall is here, and that means the leaves turn pretty colors, people are dressing warmer, football is on every Sunday, but there is something far less cheery about the season. This means that you’ll be always exposed to an environment full of unseen viruses, like flu virus. Fall usually means the beginning of the best season to catch the flu. Influenza is one of the deadliest diseases in human history, and its death toll is estimated to be greater than the Bubonic Plague, yet the easiest prevention is simply to wash your hands. A very practical preventive measure! Here’s what you may not know: around 226,000 people are hospitalized every year from the flu, and about 36,000 people die from it each year. Treating it once infection has begun can be costly, and prevention can be as well. Health experts recommend a yearly flu shot, which costs in the neighborhood of $20 – 30. If you have children, then getting a shot for yourself, your spouse/partner, and the kids can add up fast. If you get the virus anyway, treatment is expensive, especially if it means hospitalization. This is just a reminder that a payday cash loan can help cover unexpected medical bills, and to wash your hands.

posted on Thu, 11/13/2008 - 3:52am

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