Medical Moment: Update on Flu Vaccine

Medical Moment: Update on Flu Vaccine

Telluride Inside… and Out is proud to feature the Telluride Medical Center’s MEDICAL MOMENT, a weekly column that answers common medical questions in pop culture. Have a question for the doctors? Click here to send.

Dr. Kent Gaylord answers this week’s question: How are the influenza viruses selected each year to make the flu vaccine?

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Since flu viruses are constantly changing, the vaccine is updated each year. The update is based on which influenza virus strains are making people sick, how those viruses are spreading, and how well the previous season’s vaccine protected against those viruses.

Currently there are 141 national influenza centers in 111 countries conducting year-round surveillance to find out which strains are circulating and causing disease. This data is then collected and sent to the five World Health Organization centers around the globe.

Twice a year, in February (for the Northern Hemisphere) and September (for the Southern Hemisphere) the World Health Organization makes a recommendation as to which influenza strains are most likely to cause illness in the coming season and the composition of the seasonal influenza vaccine.

Although the World Health Organization puts out the word, it is up to each individual country to make its own decision about which strains should be included in the influenza vaccine licensed in its country.  In the United States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determines makes that determination.

Once that recommendation has been issued, manufactures go into production. It takes at least six months to make large quantities of influenza vaccine. This vaccine then becomes available generally starting in September.

This year’s U.S. vaccine is made to protect against the A/California/7, A/Switzerland/9715293 and B/Phuket/3073 strains.

Editor’s note: The Telluride Medical Center is the only 24-hour emergency facility within 65 miles. As a mountain town in a challenging, remote environment, a thriving medical center is vital to our community’s health.

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