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The influenza vaccine or flu shot is a vaccine to protect against the highly variable influenza virus.
The annual flu kills an estimated 36,000 people in the United States. The annually updated trivalent flu vaccine for the 2007–2008 season consists of hemagglutinin (HA) surface glycoprotein components from influenza H3N2, H1N1, and B influenza viruses.
Each year the influenza virus changes and different strains become dominant. Due to the high mutability of the virus a particular vaccine formulation usually works for only about a year. The World Health Organization coordinates the contents of the vaccine each year to contain the most likely strains of the virus to attack the next year. The flu vaccine is usually recommended for anyone in a high-risk group who would be likely to suffer complications from influenza.
Additional recommended knowledge
History of the flu vaccine
Vaccines are used in both humans and nonhumans. Human vaccine is meant unless specifically identified as a veterinary or poultry or livestock vaccine.
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is an infectious disease that infects birds and mammals (primarily of the upper airways and lungs in mammals) and is caused by an RNA virus of the Orthomyxoviridae family (the influenza viruses). The most common and characteristic symptoms of influenza in humans are fever, pharyngitis (sore throat), myalgia (muscle pains), severe headache, coughing, and malaise (weakness and fatigue). Hippocrates first described the symptoms of influenza in 412 B.C. Since then, the virus has undergone mutations and shifts and has caused numerous pandemics. The first influenza pandemic was recorded in 1580, since this time, various methods have been employed to eradicate its cause. The etiological cause of influenza, the orthomyxoviridae was finally discovered by the Medical Research Council (MRC) of the United Kingdom in 1933.
Known flu pandemics:
Flu vaccine origins and development
In the world wide Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, "Physicians tried everything they knew, everything they had ever heard of, from the ancient art of bleeding patients, to administering oxygen, to developing new vaccines and sera (chiefly against what we now call Hemophilus influenzae—a name derived from the fact that it was originally considered the etiological agent—and several types of pneumococci). Only one therapeutic measure, transfusing blood from recovered patients to new victims, showed any hint of success."
"In 1931, viral growth in embryonated hens' eggs was discovered, and in the 1940s, the US military developed the first approved inactivated vaccines for influenza, which were used in the Second World War (Baker 2002, Hilleman 2000). Greater advances were made in vaccinology and immunology, and vaccines became safer and mass-produced. Today, thanks to the advances of molecular technology, we are on the verge of making influenza vaccines through the genetic manipulation of influenza genes (Couch 1997, Hilleman 2002)."
Flu vaccine acceptance
The current egg-based technology for producing influenza vaccine was created in the 1950s.
"The WHO Global Influenza Surveillance Network was established in 1952. The network comprises 4 WHO Collaborating Centres (WHO CCs) and 112 institutions in 83 countries, which are recognized by WHO as WHO National Influenza Centres (NICs). These NICs collect specimens in their country, perform primary virus isolation and preliminary antigenic characterization. They ship newly isolated strains to WHO CCs for high level antigenic and genetic analysis, the result of which forms the basis for WHO recommendations on the composition of influenza vaccine for the Northern and Southern Hemisphere each year."
In the U.S. swine flu scare of 1976, President Gerald Ford was confronted with a potential swine flu pandemic. The vaccination program was plagued by delays and public relations problems, but about 24% of the population was vaccinated by the time the program was canceled with much concern and doubt about flu vaccination.
According to the CDC: "Influenza vaccination is the primary method for preventing influenza and its severe complications. [...] Vaccination is associated with reductions in influenza-related respiratory illness and physician visits among all age groups, hospitalization and death among persons at high risk, otitis media among children, and work absenteeism among adults. Although influenza vaccination levels increased substantially during the 1990s, further improvements in vaccine coverage levels are needed".
Influenza research includes molecular virology, molecular evolution, pathogenesis, host immune responses, genomics, and epidemiology. These help in developing influenza countermeasures such as vaccines, therapies and diagnostic tools. Improved influenza countermeasures require basic research on how viruses enter cells, replicate, mutate, evolve into new strains and induce an immune response. The Influenza Genome Sequencing Project is creating a library of influenza sequences that will help us understand what makes one strain more lethal than another, what genetic determinants most affect immunogenicity, and how the virus evolves over time. Solutions to limitations in current vaccine methods are being researched.
"Today, we have the capability to produce 300 million doses of trivalent vaccine per year - enough for current epidemics in the Western world, but insufficient for coping with a pandemic."
Clinical trials of vaccines
A vaccine is assessed in terms of the reduction of the risk of disease produced by vaccination, its efficacy. In contrast, in the field, the effectiveness of a vaccine is the practical reduction in risk for an individual when they are vaccinated under real-world conditions. Measuring efficacy of influenza vaccines is relatively simple, as the immune response produced by the vaccine can be assessed in animal models, or the amount of antibody produced in vaccinated people can be measured, or most rigorously, by immunising adult volunteers and then challenging with virulent influenza virus. In studies such as these, influenza vaccines showed high efficacy and produced a protective immune response. For ethical reasons, such challenge studies cannot be performed in the population most at risk from influenza - the elderly and young children. However, studies on the effectiveness of flu vaccines in the real world are uniquely difficult. The vaccine may not be matched to the virus in circulation; virus prevalence varies widely between years, and influenza is often confused with other flu-like illnesses.
Nevertheless, multiple clinical trials of both live and inactivated influenza vaccines have been performed and their results pooled and analyzed in several recent meta-analyses. Studies on live vaccines have very limited data, but these preparations may be more effective than inactivated vaccines. The meta-analyses examined the efficacy and effectiveness of inactivated vaccines in adults, children, and the elderly. In adults, vaccines show high efficacy against the targeted strains, but low effectiveness overall, so the benefits of vaccination are small, with a one-quarter reduction in risk of contracting influenza but no effect on the rate of hospitalization. In children, vaccines again showed high efficacy, but low effectiveness in preventing "flu-like illness", in children under two the data are extremely limited, but vaccination appeared to confer no measurable benefit. In the elderly, vaccination does not reduce the frequency of influenza, but may reduce pneumonia, hospital admission and deaths from influenza or pneumonia. The measured effectiveness of the vaccine in the elderly varies depending on whether the population studied is in residential care homes, or in the community, with the vaccine appearing more effective in an institutional environment. This apparent effect may be due to selection bias or differences in diagnosis and surveillance.
Overall, the benefit of influenza vaccination is clearest in the elderly, with vaccination in children of questionable benefit. Vaccination of adults is not predicted to produce significant improvements in public health. The apparent contradiction between vaccines with high efficacy, but low effectiveness, may reflect the difficulty in diagnosing influenza under clinical conditions and the large number of strains circulating in the population.
Who should get it
Yearly influenza vaccination should be routinely offered to patients at risk of complications of influenza:
In the United States a person aged 50–64 is nearly ten times more likely to die an influenza-associated death than a younger person, and a person over age 65 is over ten times more likely to die an influenza-associated death than the 50–64 age group. Vaccination of those over age 65 reduces influenza-associated death by about 50%. However, it is unlikely that the vaccine completely explains the results since elderly people who get vaccinated are probably more healthy and health-conscious than those who do not.
As mortality is high among infants who contract influenza, the household contacts and caregivers of infants should be vaccinated to reduce the risk of passing an influenza infection to the infant.
Data from the years when Japan required annual flu vaccinations for school-aged children indicate that vaccinating children—the group most likely to catch and spread the disease—has a strikingly positive effect on reducing mortality among older people: one life saved for every 420 children who received the flu vaccine. This may be due to herd immunity or to direct causes, such as individual older people not being exposed to influenza. For example, retired grandparents often risk infection by caring for their sick grandchildren in households where the parents can't take time off work or are sick themselves.
Side effects of the inactivated/dead flu vaccine injection are:
These problems usually begin soon after the injection, and last 1-2 days.
Side effects of the activated/live/LAIV flu nasal spray vaccine: Some children and adolescents 2-17 years of age have reported mild reactions, including:
Some adults 18-49 years of age have reported:
Flu vaccine virus selection
Selecting viruses for the vaccine manufacturing process is very difficult.
At the U.S.'s Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee's 101st meeting of February 16 2005, an extensive discussion and vote was held concerning the following year's flu vaccine virus selection, but began with a summary of the previous year:
Response to unexpected difficulties
Flu vaccine manufacturing
Flu vaccines are available both as an injection of killed virus and as nasal spray of live attenuated influenza virus (LAIV) (sold as FluMist). Clinical trials suggest that the live virus may be more effective at preventing infection. FluMist previously was not approved in the United States for use in children younger than 5. Starting in 2006 it is available to healthy children aged 2 and older.
Flu vaccine is usually grown in fertilized chicken eggs. Both types of flu vaccines are contraindicated for those with severe allergies to egg proteins and people with a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome.
On October 5 2004, Chiron Corporation, a corporation contracted to deliver half of the expected flu vaccine for the United States and a significant portion to the UK, issued a press release that stated it was unable to dispense its stock for the 2004-2005 season, due to suspension of the corporation's license to produce the vaccine by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took swift action to enlist the help of other companies such as MedImmune and Sanofi pasteur to supply vaccine in high-risk populations in the United States.
Most injection based flu vaccines intended for adults in the United States still contain Thiomersal, despite having been banned in many countries.
There are several H5N1 vaccines for several of the avian H5N1 varieties, some for use in humans and some for use in poultry. H5N1 continually mutates, meaning vaccines based on current samples of avian H5N1 cannot be depended upon to work in the case of a future pandemic of H5N1. While there can be some cross-protection against related flu strains, the best protection would be from a vaccine specifically produced for any future pandemic flu virus strain. Dr. Daniel Lucey, co-director of the Biohazardous Threats and Emerging Diseases graduate program at Georgetown University has made this point, "There is no H5N1 pandemic so there can be no pandemic vaccine." However, "pre-pandemic vaccines" have been created; are being refined and tested; and do have some promise both in furthering research and preparedness for the next pandemic. Vaccine manufacturing companies are being encouraged to increase capacity so that if a pandemic vaccine is needed, facilities will be available for rapid production of large amounts of a vaccine specific to a new pandemic strain.
Problems with H5N1 vaccine production include:
Cell culture (cell-based) manufacturing technology can be applied to influenza vaccines as they are with most viral vaccines and thereby solve the problems associated with creating flu vaccines using chicken eggs as is currently done. The US government has purchased from Sanofi Pasteur and Chiron Corporation several million doses of vaccine meant to be used in case of an influenza pandemic of H5N1 avian influenza and is conducting clinical trials with these vaccines. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have had success with a genetically engineered vaccine that took only a month to make and completely protected chickens from the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus.
According to the United States Department of Health & Human Services:
Chiron Corporation is now recertified and under contract with the National Institutes of Health to produce 8,000-10,000 investigational doses of Avian Flu (H5N1) vaccine. MedImmune and Aventis Pasteur are under similar contracts. The United States government hopes to obtain enough vaccine in 2006 to treat 4 million people. However, it is unclear whether this vaccine would be effective against a hypothetical mutated strain that would be easily transmitted through human populations, and the shelflife of stockpiled doses has yet to be determined.
The New England Journal of Medicine reported on March 30, 2006 on one of dozens of vaccine studies currently being conducted. The Treanor et al. study was on vaccine produced from the human isolate (A/Vietnam/1203/2004 H5N1) of a virulent clade 1 influenza A (H5N1) virus with the use of a plasmid rescue system, with only the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase genes expressed and administered without adjuvant. "The rest of the genes were derived from an avirulent egg-adapted influenza A/PR/8/34 strain. The hemagglutinin gene was further modified to replace six basic amino acids associated with high pathogenicity in birds at the cleavage site between hemagglutinin 1 and hemagglutinin 2. Immunogenicity was assessed by microneutralization and hemagglutination-inhibition assays with the use of the vaccine virus, although a subgroup of samples were tested with the use of the wild-type influenza A/Vietnam/1203/2004 (H5N1) virus." The results of this study combined with others scheduled to be completed by Spring 2007 is hoped will provide a highly immunogenic vaccine that is cross-protective against heterologous influenza strains.
On August 18, 2006. the World Health Organization changed the H5N1 strains recommended for candidate vaccines for the first time since 2004. "The WHO's new prototype strains, prepared by reverse genetics, include three new H5N1 subclades. The hemagglutinin sequences of most of the H5N1 avian influenza viruses circulating in the past few years fall into two genetic groups, or clades. Clade 1 includes human and bird isolates from Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia and bird isolates from Laos and Malaysia. Clade 2 viruses were first identified in bird isolates from China, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea before spreading westward to the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. The clade 2 viruses have been primarily responsible for human H5N1 infections that have occurred during late 2005 and 2006, according to WHO. Genetic analysis has identified six subclades of clade 2, three of which have a distinct geographic distribution and have been implicated in human infections:
On the basis of the three subclades, the WHO is offering companies and other groups that are interested in pandemic vaccine development these three new prototype strains:
[...] Until now, researchers have been working on prepandemic vaccines for H5N1 viruses in clade 1. In March, the first clinical trial of a U.S. vaccine for H5N1 showed modest results. In May, French researchers showed somewhat better results in a clinical trial of an H5N1 vaccine that included an adjuvant. Vaccine experts aren't sure if a vaccine effective against known H5N1 viral strains would be effective against future strains. Although the new viruses will now be available for vaccine research, WHO said clinical trials using the clade 1 viruses should continue as an essential step in pandemic preparedness, because the trials yield useful information on priming, cross-reactivity, and cross-protection by vaccine viruses from different clades and subclades."
As of November 2006, the United States Department of Health and Human Services still had enough H5N1 pre-pandemic vaccine to treat about 3 million people (5.9 million full-potency doses) in spite of 0.2 million doses used for research and 1.4 million doses that have begun to lose potency (from the original 7.5 million full-potency doses purchased from Sanofi Pasteur and Chiron Corp.). The expected shelf life of seasonal flu vaccine is about a year so the fact that most of the H5N1 pre-pandemic stockpile is still good after about 2 years is considered encouraging.
2003–2004 season (Northern Hemisphere)
The production of flu vaccine requires a lead time of about six months before the season. It is possible that by flu season a strain becomes common for which the vaccine does not provide protection. In the 2003–2004 season the vaccine was produced to protect against A/Panama, A/New Caledonia, and B/Hong Kong. A new strain, A/Fujian, was discovered after production of the vaccine started and vaccination gave only partial protection against this strain.
Nature magazine reported that the Influenza Genome Sequencing Project, using phylogenetic analysis of 156 H3N2 genomes, "explains the appearance, during the 2003–2004 season, of the 'Fujian/411/2002'-like strain, for which the existing vaccine had limited effectiveness" as due to an epidemiologically significant reassortment. "Through a reassortment event, a minor clade provided the haemagglutinin gene that later became part of the dominant strain after the 2002–2003 season. Two of our samples, A/New York/269/2003 (H3N2) and A/New York/32/2003 (H3N2), show that this minor clade continued to circulate in the 2003–2004 season, when most other isolates were reassortants." 
According to the CDC:
During September 28, 2003–May 22, 2004, WHO and NREVSS collaborating laboratories in the United States tested 130,577 respiratory specimens for influenza viruses; 24,649 (18.9%) were positive. Of these, 24,393 (99.0%) were influenza A viruses, and 249 (1.0%) were influenza B viruses. Among the influenza A viruses, 7,191 (29.5%) were subtyped; 7,189 (99.9%) were influenza A (H3N2) viruses, and two (0.1%) were influenza A (H1) viruses. The proportion of specimens testing positive for influenza first increased to >10% during the week ending October 25, 2003 (week 43), peaked at 35.2% during the week ending November 29 (week 48), and declined to <10% during the week ending January 17, 2004 (week 2). The peak percentage of specimens testing positive for influenza during the previous four seasons had ranged from 23% to 31% and peaked during late December to late February.
As of June 15, 2004, CDC had antigenically characterized 1,024 influenza viruses collected by U.S. laboratories since October 1, 2003: 949 influenza A (H3N2) viruses, three influenza A (H1) viruses, one influenza A (H7N2) virus, and 71 influenza B viruses. Of the 949 influenza A (H3N2) isolates characterized, 106 (11.2%) were similar antigenically to the vaccine strain A/Panama/2007/99 (H3N2), and 843 (88.8%) were similar to the drift variant, A/Fujian/411/2002 (H3N2). Of the three A (H1) isolates that were characterized, two were H1N1 viruses, and one was an H1N2 virus. The hemagglutinin proteins of the influenza A (H1) viruses were similar antigenically to the hemagglutinin of the vaccine strain A/New Caledonia/20/99. Of the 71 influenza B isolates that were characterized, 66 (93%) belonged to the B/Yamagata/16/88 lineage and were similar antigenically to B/Sichuan/379/99, and five (7%) belonged to the B/Victoria/2/87 lineage and were similar antigenically to the corresponding vaccine strain B/Hong Kong/330/2001.
In December 2003, one confirmed case of avian influenza A (H9N2) virus infection was reported in a child aged 5 years in Hong Kong. The child had fever, cough, and nasal discharge in late November, was hospitalized for 2 days, and fully recovered. The source of this child's H9N2 infection is unknown.
During January–March 2004, a total of 34 confirmed human cases of avian influenza A (H5N1) virus infection were reported in Vietnam and Thailand. The cases were associated with severe respiratory illness requiring hospitalization and a case-fatality proportion of 68% (Vietnam: 22 cases, 15 deaths; Thailand: 12 cases, eight deaths). A substantial proportion of the cases were among children and young adults (i.e., persons aged 5–24 years). These cases were associated with widespread outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza among domestic poultry.
During March 2004, health authorities in Canada reported two confirmed cases of avian influenza A (H7N3) virus infection in poultry workers who were involved in culling of poultry during outbreaks of highly pathogenic H7N3 on farms in the Fraser River Valley, British Columbia. One patient had unilateral conjunctivitis and nasal discharge, and the other had unilateral conjunctivitis and headache. Both illnesses resolved without hospitalization.
During the 2003–2004 influenza season, a case of avian influenza A (H7N2) virus infection was detected in an adult male from New York, who was hospitalized for upper and lower respiratory tract illness in November 2003. Influenza A (H7N2) virus was isolated from a respiratory specimen from the patient, whose acute symptoms resolved. The source of this person's infection is unknown.
2004 season (Southern Hemisphere)
The composition of influenza virus vaccines for use in the 2004 Southern Hemisphere influenza season recommended by the World Health Organization was:
2004–2005 season (Northern Hemisphere)
According to the CDC:
2005 season (Southern Hemisphere)
The composition of influenza virus vaccines for use in the 2005 Southern Hemisphere influenza season recommended by the World Health Organization was:
2005–2006 season (Northern Hemisphere)
The vaccines produced for the 2005–2006 season use:
In people in the U.S., overall flu and pneumonia deaths were below those of a typical flu season with 84% Influenzavirus A and the rest Influenzavirus B. Of the patients who had Type A viruses, 80% had viruses identical or similar to the A bugs in the vaccine. 70% of the people testing positive for a B virus had Type B Victoria, a version not found in the vaccine.
"During the 2005–06 season, influenza A (H3N2) viruses predominated overall, but late in the season influenza B viruses were more frequently isolated than influenza A viruses. Influenza A (H1N1) viruses circulated at low levels throughout the season. Nationally, activity was low from October through early January, increased during February, and peaked in early March. Peak activity was less intense, but activity remained elevated for a longer period of time this season compared to the previous three seasons. The longer period of elevated activity may be due in part to regional differences in the timing of peak activity and intensity of influenza B activity later in the season."
2006 season (Southern Hemisphere)
The composition of influenza virus vaccines for use in the 2006 Southern Hemisphere influenza season recommended by the World Health Organization was:
2006–2007 season (Northern Hemisphere)
The 2006–2007 influenza vaccine composition recommended by the World Health Organization on February 15, 2006 and the U.S. FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on February 17, 2006 use:
2007 season (Southern Hemisphere)
The composition of influenza virus vaccines for use in the 2007 Southern Hemisphere influenza season recommended by the World Health Organization on September 20, 2006  was:
2007-2008 season (Northern Hemisphere)
The composition of influenza virus vaccines for use in the 2007–2008 Northern Hemisphere influenza season recommended by the World Health Organization on February 14, 2007  was:
2008 season (Southern Hemisphere)
The composition of virus vaccines for use in the 2008 Southern Hemisphere influenza season recommended by the World Health Organization on September 17-19, 2007 was:
Flu vaccine for nonhumans
"Vaccination in the veterinary world pursues four goals: (i) protection from clinical disease, (ii) protection from infection with virulent virus, (iii) protection from virus excretion, and (iv) serological differentiation of infected from vaccinated animals (so-called DIVA principle). In the field of influenza vaccination, neither commercially available nor experimentally tested vaccines have been shown so far to fulfil all of these requirements."
Horses with horse flu can run a fever, have a dry hacking cough, have a runny nose, and become depressed and reluctant to eat or drink for several days but usually recover in 2 to 3 weeks. "Vaccination schedules generally require a primary course of 2 doses, 3–6 weeks apart, followed by boosters at 6–12 month intervals. It is generally recognised that in many cases such schedules may not maintain protective levels of antibody and more frequent administration is advised in high-risk situations."
Poultry vaccines for bird flu are made on the cheap and are not filtered and purified like human vaccines to remove bits of bacteria or other viruses. They usually contain whole virus, not just hemagglutin as in most human flu vaccines. Purification to standards needed for humans is far more expensive than the original creation of the unpurified vaccine from eggs. There is no market for veterinary vaccines that are that expensive. Another difference between human and poultry vaccines is that poultry vaccines are adjuvated with mineral oil, which induces a strong immune reaction but can cause inflammation and abscesses. "Chicken vaccinators who have accidentally jabbed themselves have developed painful swollen fingers or even lost thumbs, doctors said. Effectiveness may also be limited. Chicken vaccines are often only vaguely similar to circulating flu strains — some contain an H5N2 strain isolated in Mexico years ago. 'With a chicken, if you use a vaccine that's only 85 percent related, you'll get protection,' Dr. Cardona said. 'In humans, you can get a single point mutation, and a vaccine that's 99.99 percent related won't protect you.' And they are weaker [than human vaccines]. 'Chickens are smaller and you only need to protect them for six weeks, because that's how long they live till you eat them,' said Dr. John J. Treanor, a vaccine expert at the University of Rochester. Human seasonal flu vaccines contain about 45 micrograms of antigen, while an experimental A(H5N1) vaccine contains 180. Chicken vaccines may contain less than 1 microgram. 'You have to be careful about extrapolating data from poultry to humans,' warned Dr. David E. Swayne, director of the agriculture department's Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory. 'Birds are more closely related to dinosaurs.'"
Researchers, led by Nicholas Savill of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, used mathematical models to simulate the spread of H5N1 and concluded that "at least 95 per cent of birds need to be protected to prevent the virus spreading silently. In practice, it is difficult to protect more than 90 per cent of a flock; protection levels achieved by a vaccine are usually much lower than this."
Swine influenza virus (SIV) vaccines are extensively used in the swine industry in Europe and North America. Most swine flu vaccine manufacturers include an H1N1 and an H3N2 SIV strains.
Swine influenza has become a greater problem in recent decades. Evolution of the virus has resulted in inconsistent responses to traditional vaccines. Standard commercial swine flu vaccines are effective in controlling the problem when the virus strains match enough to have significant cross-protection and custom (autogenous) vaccines made from the specific viruses isolated are created and used in the more difficult cases. SIV vaccine manufacture Novartis paints this picture: "A strain of swine influenza virus (SIV) called H3N2, first identified in the US in 1998, has brought exasperating production losses to swine producers. Abortion storms are a common sign. Sows go off feed for two or three days and run a fever up to 106° F. Mortality in a naïve herd can run as high as 15%."
Sources and notes
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Influenza_vaccine". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|