Flu Shot Unable to Combat Virus Strain

The above headline is coming from a December 15th 2003 Associated Press story that appeared in newspapers across the nation. The story reports that the strain of virus that is currently running around the united states isn't the same one the flu vaccine was developed for. There are numerous people who dispute the reasoning behind using vaccinations for the flu and other diseases to start with. However, these concerns come from those that actually created the flu vaccine itself.

The tale notes that the flu virus mutates constantly. Every year the virus which induces flu differs from the year before. The Food and Drug Administration, with the aid of its expert committee, must decide in late winter what varieties could be the biggest threats in the upcoming year. The story admits that picking the most effective combination is a combination of science, luck and seat-of-the-pants instinct. Dr. Michael Decker, head of scientific affairs at Aventis, one of the three U.S. vaccine makers describes the development of flu vaccines by saying: "By the time you realize exactly what is the right strain, you can not do anything about it." Dr. Theodore Eickhoff of the University of Colorado added, "For the first time in several years of taking part in these deliberations, I have to add I am very uncomfortable with the recommendation."

Barbara Loe Fisher, president, National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), stated: "Public health officials knew last spring which it was highly likely that the A/Panama strain in the present vaccine was not going to protect against the mutated, more dangerous A/Fujian strain of flu. If you find solid new evidence that this vaccine is protective against Fujian, then it needs to be released. If there is no such evidence, then it is not right to lead individuals to assume that should they get vaccinated now, they're going to be protected against it." Fisher, who was the consumer voting member of the FDA Advisory Committee, abstained from the strain selection vote on March 18, saying "I feel uncomfortable voting for inclusion of an A/Panama-like virus, when what may really be needed is an A/Fujian-like virus. So I am going to abstain and urge that the public be informed that next year's flu vaccine may not be protective against an emerging strain."

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