Tag: flu vaccines

The 2019-20 Flu Season Update

Breaking News: The 2019-2020 season is well underway, but flu activity has “declined slightly.” (see below)

It is way too early to tell if flu season has peaked...
It is way too early to tell if flu season has peaked…

Flu season started early this year.

The 2019-20 Flu Season Update

That’s not the only surprise though. We are seeing a lot of flu B, which is also unusual for the beginning of flu season.

And we are already seeing quite a few pediatric deaths – 39 so far this season.

The overall cumulative hospitalization rate was 19.9 per 100,000 population which is similar to what has been seen during recent previous influenza seasons at this time of year.
The overall cumulative hospitalization rate was 19.9 per 100,000 population which is similar to what has been seen during recent previous influenza seasons at this time of year.

But none of this should really be a surprise – it’s flu season, which is always unpredictable.

“It’s not too late to get vaccinated. Flu vaccination is always the best way to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications.”

Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report

Some things to know to about this year’s flu season include that:

  • the most active flu B virus strains belong to a sublade that was not in the flu vaccine, but is similar enough that getting vaccinated should offer protection
  • again, it is never too late to get a flu vaccine. Remember, a yearly flu vaccine is recommended for everyone without a contraindication who is at least six months old, with younger children getting two doses during their first season.
  • anti-viral flu medications (Tamiflu, Relenza, and Xofluza) are available, but are mainly recommended for those who are at high risk for serious flu complications, including young children (under 2 to 5 years of age), pregnant women, seniors, and those with chronic medical conditions, like asthma and diabetes, etc.
  • most people do not need a flu test, as it is possible to have a negative flu test and still have the flu (false positive test) and most people don’t need to be treated with anti-viral flu medications
  • if you get the flu, avoid others and seek medical attention if you develop any serious, emergency warning signs, like trouble breathing, dehydration, or confusion, etc.
  • people with the flu can generally return to school or work once they are fever free for at least 24 hours

And let’s hope we don’t see any other surprises this year…

More on the The 2019-20 Flu Season Update

Getting Advice About Flu Vaccines

As flu season approaches, it seems like everyone wants to give you advice about flu vaccines.

How do you know who to listen to?

Getting Advice About Flu Vaccines

How do you know who’s advice to avoid?

Amanda Bitz wrote a popular post with some good advice.

The best advice about flu vaccines is going to include a recommendation to get vaccinated and protected.
You getting the flu shot, should be a thing.

Another nurse thought she could do a little better…

Exercising and drinking clean water isn't going to help you avoid getting the flu...
A healthy person can’t pass illness to anyone unless they get sick with the flu…

Nurse Sherri wasn’t the only one who felt the need to write a response after reading a post with advice about flu vaccines.

Great advice about flu vaccines!
XOXO – save each other – vaccinate!

Not surprisingly, anti-vax folks have not liked Beth Purkey’s post.

The holistic lioness is probably the worst person to go to for advice about flu vaccines.
XOXO – Save this generation, the next and the ones to follow – DON’T VACCINATE?

What can you see in their responses?

An anti-vaccine toxicologist is not someone you want to go to for advice about flu vaccines.
Herd immunity cannot be achieved by vaccines?

Mostly that they cherry pick a few case reports and studies that they think fit their narrative – that flu vaccines are dangerous, don’t work, and that getting the flu ain’t so bad.

And they top it off with a few conspiracy theories, stuff about shedding, and lots of talk about vaccine inserts.

So who do you want to get advice about flu vaccines from?

Who do you want taking care of you in the hospital if you are sick?

An anti-vaccine nurse is not a good person to go to for advice about flu vaccines.
Lindsey wasn’t trying to scare anyone, she was empowering them with facts so they could make a choice and feel LESS FEARFUL of naturally occurring pathogens that we live amongst all day, every day.

Folks trying to sell you stuff, from essential oils and CBD oil to misinformation about vaccines and the flu, or an “ACTUAL certified medical professional” who knows what they are talking about?

“The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu.”

Healthy Habits to Help Prevent Flu

How serious are you about wanting to avoid getting the flu and keeping your family healthy?

Have you gotten your flu shot yet?

Has your family?

More on Flu Vaccines

Updated Recommendations to Prevent and Control the Flu from the CDC

Every year, we get updated recommendations on how to best prevent and control the flu from the CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Updated Recommendations to Prevent and Control the Flu from the CDC

Sometimes that means big changes, but often it doesn’t.

Updated Recommendations to Prevent and Control the Flu from the CDC

What about this year?

“This report includes no substantial changes from the 2018–19 recommendations.”

Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — United States, 2019–20 Influenza Season

No substantial changes. That makes it easy to report!

So as usual, everyone who is at least 6 months old without a contraindication should get a flu vaccine this year.

“Balancing considerations regarding the unpredictability of timing of onset of the influenza season and concerns that vaccine-induced immunity might wane over the course of a season, it is recommended that vaccination should be offered by the end of October.”

Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — United States, 2019–20 Influenza Season

And be sure your kids get vaccinated and protected before flu season starts.

What else is there to know about the upcoming, 2019-20 flu season?

  • flu vaccine is already becoming available in doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and clinics
  • despite some initial delays, up to 169 million doses of flu vaccine will be available for the 2019-20 flu season
  • FluMist will be in short supply this year, but it is available

Anyone have predictions for what kind of flu season we will have?

More on Recommendations to Prevent and Control the Flu

Flu Vaccine Delays and the 2019-20 Flu Season Supply

While we now think that flu vaccines are delayed if we don’t start seeing them in August, it is important to remember that it wasn’t that long ago that experts recommended that the optimal time to get a flu vaccination was in October and November.

It wasn’t until the 2006-07 flu season that we started to get updated guidelines for earlier flu vaccinations, starting with recommendations to offer flu shots in September for high risk groups “to avoid missed opportunities for vaccination.”

The next year the recommendation for the timing of flu vaccination became “health-care providers should begin offering vaccination soon after vaccine becomes available and if possible by October. To avoid missed opportunities for vaccination, providers should offer vaccination during routine health-care visits or during hospitalizations whenever vaccine is available.”

And with over 150 million doses of flu vaccine produced each year, it has been some time since we have seen a true flu vaccine shortage. The fact that more and more companies are making flu vaccines also helps ensure that shortages don’t happen.

Still, most flu vaccine manufacturers use older egg-based technology to grow flu virus strains for vaccine, which is not as reliable or flexible as many would wish it to be. This is what often leads to flu vaccine delays and shortages – the fact that in some years, the flu virus is simply hard to grow.

Flu Vaccine Delays and Shortages

How common are flu vaccine delays or shortages?

A flu vaccine delay and shortage in 2000 caused a supply of only 26.6 million doses of flu vaccine by October (vs about 76 million the previous year) and about 8 million fewer doses by the end of the season. The delay and shortage was caused by manufacturers having difficulty growing the H3N3 strain of flu and one fewer flu vaccine manufacturer.

In 2004, Chiron Corporation had its license suspended in the United Kingdom because of ‘concerns of possible microbial contamination of product.’ Chiron was to produce between 46-48 million doses of influenza vaccine for the United States and so overnight, we had our flu vaccine supply cut in half, leading to true shortages. An allocation plan that year helped to make sure that flu vaccine got to high-priority providers and people who needed them though.

In 2006, there was a delay in getting flu shots for younger children until November, as Sanofi Pasteur had difficulty producing their flu shots because of poor growth of one of the strains of influenza in the flu shot.

The emergence of H1N1 pandemic strain of influenza led to shortages in 2009. The problem that year was one of timing. The H1N1 flu virus was discovered just as seasonal flu vaccine was starting to be made, which led to a shift in priorities for flu vaccine production. The biggest problem, in addition to a slow growing H1N1 virus for the vaccine, was an early start to the flu season though. When H1N1 vaccine became available in October, it was too late for most people – flu season had already peaked.

After the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, we had several years of a more than ample supply of flu vaccine and on time delivery of our flu vaccine, which likely got most of us spoiled. It also was why we were all surprised by the production problems that led both GSK and Sanofi to have delays in shipping their flu vaccine in 2014.

We also had some flu vaccine delays in 2015. That year, MedImmune, the manufacturers of FluMist were supplying over 16 million doses of flu vaccine, but stated that “We expect customers will begin receiving product in early September and we will continue delivering vaccine throughout the season.”

Sanofi Pasteur also reported problems in 2015, stating that “Multidose vial orders are anticipated to be filled by the end of September; single use syringes will be supplied at a steady pace through November.”

2019-20 Flu Season Supply

Unfortunately, there will be some delays this flu season too, likely caused by a late update to the H3N2 strain because of drifting.

“Two strain changes coupled with the late decision for the H3N2 strain from VRBPAC, due to the drift that was being seen in surveillance was the issue. At least right now, capacity is all right with injectable vaccine.”

L.J Tan, MS, PhD Chief Strategy Officer, Immunization Action Coalition

Remember, the WHO and FDA, via the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC), made late decisions on which H3N2 strain to include in the 2019-20 flu vaccines.

We will be getting plenty of flu shots this year, just not as early as we have been getting used to...
We will be getting plenty of flu shots this year, just not as early as we have been getting used to…

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that pediatricians are getting notices that they will only receive a small part of their order of FluMist from AstraZeneca this year.

Or that Sanofi Pasteur, which will produce 40% of this year’s projected supply, is reporting a 4 to 6 week delay.

Even if word is just now trickling down to pediatricians, others have known about these delays for months…

Luckily, unlike delays in some other years, this doesn’t mean any shortages of flu vaccine. It is just that some doctors and clinics won’t be getting their first shipments as early as they would have liked. And not everyone will be able to get FluMist, if that is their preference.

Still, there will be a lot of flu vaccine and plenty of time to get everyone vaccinated and protected well before flu season hits!

What You Need to Know about Flu Vaccine Delays and Shortages

Other things to know about flu vaccine delays and shortages include that:

  • Pharmacies often seem to get their shipment of flu vaccine before pediatricians do, especially when there is any kind of delay.
  • Since even in a typical year, flu vaccine for the Vaccine for Children’s program gets to pediatricians a few weeks after other flu vaccine, this stock will likely also be delayed this year.
  • While they can certainly be frustrating, a flu vaccine delay shouldn’t mean that your family can’t get a flu vaccine.
  • Tamiflu can be an alternative to the flu shot for some high risk children who haven’t been vaccinated yet.

If there is a flu vaccine delay or shortage and your child is in a high risk group for complications from the flu, get a flu vaccine as soon as you can, wherever you can, and be sure you pediatrician puts you on a high priority list to get any vaccine that becomes available.

More on Flu Vaccine Delays and Shortages