Forgot to get your vaccine back in the fall and think it’s too late to get one?
Well according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you can still get your flu vaccine while the virus is still going around. So even though the flu season begins most of the time at the start of October, it peaks during the first two months of the year and can go on as far as May
The FDA ensures the vaccines produced every year are safe and actually work, and this work begins long before the next flu season begins because it often occurs while the current flu season is going on. Thus, the task of assuring vaccines are safe and effective is a year-round endeavor.
Why do we need new vaccines every year?
Dr. Marion Gruber, director of the Office of Vaccine Research and Review for the FDA states that there are sound reasons for why the flu vaccine has to be new each year.
Gruber tells us that because the virus mutates each year, a vaccine has to be created that closely resembles the new strain going around because the previous year’s vaccine loses effectiveness as time passes by.
Identifying likely virus strains
During the month of February—the peak of the current flu season—the World Health Organization, FDA and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) gather worldwide data to determine the next flu season’s makeup. Their findings will determine which strains are used to produce the next US vaccine.
Studying the virus strains allows the makers of the vaccines to create a matching vaccine that provides better protection.
The FDA also examine the companies making the vaccines regularly to assist in making sure these companies vaccines are effective. Reagents are prepared by the FDA and distributed to these companies to standardize the vaccines and ensure they have the right dosage strength. Each year, the manufacturing facility has to undergo an approval process to verify each lot of vaccines is appropriate for use.
The people impacted the most by the flu
According to the studies conducted yearly by the CDC, children and the elderly are the two populations that are impacted the most by the flu even though other populations may be greatly affected as well (for instance young and middle-aged adults).