TAG Answers Flu Vaccine Questions

Seasonal Flu:

Food Safety & Public Health:  

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TAG Answers Flu Vaccine Questions

While flu activity is at lower levels than expected for this time of year (as noted in the Seasonal Flu Update above), TAG is beginning to get questions from clients about flu shots and general flu protections. Following are two of these:

 Q. What is the flu vaccine?

A. According to CDC, the Influenza vaccines (flu shots) protect against the four influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common strains during the upcoming season.

  • Most vaccines are flu shots given with a needle, usually in the arm. These are made with inactivated viruses or without influenza virus
  • A nasal spray also is available which is made with a live attenuated influenza vaccine

 Q. How are the “most common strains” determined for each year?

A. Because flu viruses constantly change, CDC states that vaccine composition is reviewed and updated each year based on which influenza viruses are making people sick, the extent to which those viruses are spreading, and how well the previous season’s vaccine protected against those viruses. Year-round surveillance is conducted by more than 144 national influenza centers in over 114 countries which receive and test thousands of influenza virus samples from patients.

The laboratories then send representative viruses to six World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centers (in Atlanta, Ga.; Memphis, Tenn.; London; Melbourne; Tokyo; and Beijing) for reference and research, and the six meet with WHO twice a year to review surveillance, laboratory, and clinical studies, and the availability of vaccine viruses, to make recommendations on the composition of the influenza vaccine.

Although WHO recommends specific vaccine viruses for inclusion each country makes their own decision, with FDA making the final decision for the U.S.

A HEADS UP: In Thursday’s newsletter, we will provide an update on antigen testing, with a focus on the four companies awarded contracts by the Biden Administration in order to increase testing availability.

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