The Food and Drug Administration said Friday that it had approved vaccines for the next flu season, expected to start in the fall, and health officials are recommending vaccination for everyone 6 months old and older.
Last year’s notorious virus, the pandemic A(H1N1) swine flu, has now become just one of the usual suspects included in a killed or weakened form in the 2010-11 vaccine. People needed two flu shots last year because swine flu had its own separate vaccine; it emerged too late to be included in the seasonal vaccine.
In the coming year, most people should need only one shot — unless another new virus pops up unexpectedly. (Children being vaccinated for the first time usually need two shots, at least a month apart.)
This is the time of year when health officials typically place their bets on which flu viruses are likely to turn up in the fall, based on which strains have been circulating in the Southern Hemisphere.
Vaccines usually focus on three viruses: two from a Type A group and one from a Type B group. Type A viruses are the ones with the potential to cause pandemics, because they can undergo major genetic changes suddenly and emerge in forms to which most people have little or no resistance.
The 2010-11 vaccine will contain killed or weakened forms of three viruses: the swine flu virus, technically known as A/California/7/09 (H1N1)-like virus pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza; the A/Perth /16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus; and the B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.
Eight vaccines made by six companies have been approved, including a new, high-dose version meant for people 65 and older. Researchers think older people may need a stronger vaccine than younger ones to become immune, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that it is not yet known whether the new high-dose formula will work any better than the standard one.