A key U.S. Food and Drug Administration Advisory Committee has recommended that protection against the 2009 H1N1 virus, which was first identified last April, be included in the 2010-2011 seasonal influenza vaccine starting this fall.  That means that, barring some unforeseen circumstance, this fall, most Americans will be able to return to the traditional routine of having one flu vaccine to protect them against the major circulating flu viruses.  As is always the case with seasonal vaccine, younger children who have never had a seasonal vaccine will still need two doses.

The composition of the Northern Hemisphere’s 2010-2011 seasonal influenza was announced at the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) meeting. Next season’s vaccine will be trivalent (with three different vaccine viruses) and include:

  1. A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus
  2. A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus
  3. B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.
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The H1N1 virus recommended for inclusion in the 2010-2011 seasonal influenza vaccine is a pandemic 2009 H1N1 virus and is the same virus used in the 2009 H1N1 monovalent vaccine.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) also voted to expand the recommendation for annual influenza vaccination to include all people aged 6 months and older. The expanded recommendation is to take effect in the 2010 – 2011 influenza season. The new recommendation seeks to remove barriers to influenza immunization and signals the importance of preventing influenza across the entire population.  The vote took place against a backdrop of incremental increases in the numbers and groups of people recommended for influenza vaccination in years past, and lessons learned from the world’s still ongoing first flu pandemic in 40 years.

H1N1 has led to nearly 260,000 hospitalizations and approximately 12,000 deaths in the United States.