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The Next Flu Season

July 30, 2010
Girl sneezingWith summer wrapping up, the public focus on what was known as "swine flu" has begun to shift towards the upcoming season and the next round of vaccination.

The National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC), an advisory group to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), met this week to discuss the upcoming flu season and lessons learned from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. One of the most important ones was the remarkable efficacy in the coordination among various levels of state agencies to ensure the safety of the vaccine.

Aside from safety and monitoring, the H1N1 pandemic also brought to light many of vaccine-related issues. NVAC discussed the possibility of vaccinating healthcare workers—a move that may help to prevent influenza from spreading in hospitals and health centers.

It is hard to predict any flu season, but this upcoming year will be a particularly interesting one. The universal flu vaccine recommendation (for all those ages 6 months and older) and the higher rates of vaccination that were seen during last year’s H1N1 season may translate into increased rates this season. (Last year, between 81 and 91 million vaccines were administered in the U.S.) It is hard to tell when the H1N1 strain will reappear this season, and what impact it may have on elderly populations that were not as severely impacted by the 2009 strain.

In the aftermath of the pandemic and the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history, local, state, and federal agencies have already started to scale back their pandemic response initiatives.

The disposing of unused vaccine is also well underway.  The HHS has begun to collect used and expired vaccine through the Central Vaccine Recovery program. The program is an option for all vaccine providers who signed agreements with the federal government. Health departments can participate as the program is tailored according to the environmental regulations for their state.


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