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FDA Approves Four-Strain Seasonal Influenza Vaccine

Vaccine will be available for 2013—2014 flu season (Dec. 17)

The FDA has approved Fluarix Quadravalent influenza virus vaccine (GlaxoSmithKline) for the immunization of children (3 years of age and older) and adults to help prevent disease caused by seasonal influenza virus subtypes A and type B contained in the vaccine. The intramuscular vaccine covers against four flu strains.

Scientists classify the influenza strains that cause seasonal flu as A or B strains. Currently administered trivalent (three-strain) flu vaccines help protect against the two A virus strains most common in humans and the B strain expected to be predominant in a given year. But since the year 2000, two B virus strains (Victoria and Yamagata) have co-circulated each season. Various degrees of mismatch have occurred between the B strain included in trivalent vaccines and the B strain that actually circulated, causing an increased risk of influenza-related morbidity across all age groups — children, adults, and the elderly. The Fluarix Quadrivalent vaccine targets the two A strains and adds coverage against a second B strain.

The new vaccine will be made available in time for the 2013—2014 flu season.

Seasonal influenza may cause three to five million cases of severe illness and up to 500,000 deaths per year worldwide. Vaccination against influenza is considered one of the most effective ways of preventing mortality, complications, and hospitalizations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children 6 months of age and older and adults receive a flu shot annually.

Source: GlaxoSmithKline; December 17, 2012.

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