New, faster flu vaccine method approved

Jan. 17, 2013 at 2:26 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say they approved a new type of flu vaccine that could be produced in less time than the current method.

Karen Midthun, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said the new product, Flublok, is available in limited supplies for the current season. However, it is different from other flu vaccines, because it isn't made using eggs or an influenza virus, CNN reported.

The vaccine's manufacturer Protein Sciences said Flublok's production involves programming insect cells grown in steel tanks to produce large amounts of a the flu virus protein hemagglutinin -- a method that allows rapid production.

The current U.S. method uses eggs and takes months to produce.

"This approval represents a technological advance in the manufacturing of an influenza vaccine," Midthun told CNN.

Flublok was already used in vaccines for other infectious diseases, but for seasonal flu it is approved only for adults ages 18-49.

The new product is available in limited supply this winter, but is scheduled to be widely available during the next flu season, Protein Sciences said.

Flublok contains the elements necessary to help fend off three flu strains, including H1N1 and H3N2, but was 44.6 percent effective against all influenza strains in circulation, Protein Sciences said.

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