A Better Flu Shot

Flu vaccine model can lead to better production and effectiveness

(RxWiki News) There is a long complicated road before flu shots become available for the flu season. New models being developed could pave the way to better and more cost-effective flu shots.

Researchers have developed a new model to help determine yearly flu shots. Since the flu mutates each year, a new flu vaccine needs to be developed before the flu season.

Deciding which strains to use, whether or not to revise the vaccine or when to produce the vaccine are all factors that go into the yearly flu shot.

"Ask your doctor if a flu shot is best for you."

A new model for developing the yearly flu vaccine was created by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh. A yearly flu vaccine consists of three strains of the flu virus, two types of Influenza A and one type of Influenza B.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determines which strains of flu to be used six months before the flu season. If the FDA waits too long, there may be a shortage in flu shots at the beginning of the flu season.

The FDA determines the flu vaccine composition after the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control release their yearly recommendations.

There are six flu shot manufacturers in America that have to develop the flu shot in time for the flu season.

The flu vaccine is developed inside chicken eggs but there can be complications due to the scarcity of a particular flu strain. The University of Pittsburgh model evaluates all three strains simultaneously which can lead to better production of the flu vaccine.

The University of Pittsburgh model calls for more FDA advisory committee meetings to help ensure better accuracy in developing the yearly flu vaccine. Since the FDA decides the composition of the flu shot six months in advance, there is some uncertainty about the effectiveness of the shot.

More meetings can better predict which flu strains will be prevalent during the actual flu season.

The new model can lead to better vaccine production which can mean millions of dollars in savings while also limiting production complications. While no one may like the pain that may come from a flu shot, no one can argue with the idea of getting the best flu shot possible.

This study was published in the September-October edition of Operations Research.

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Review Date: 
December 29, 2011