Get ready for 'back-to-flu' season

Although the 2009 H1N1 pandemic is officially history, according to the World Health Organization, there is still work to be done to prepare for the 2010-11 season, for which vaccine doses have already started arriving in physicians' offices.

Although last year's infamous virus has "largely run its course," officials say, this year's seasonal vaccine will include a pandemic 2009 H1N1 virus, as well as an A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus (for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention alerted providers of an uptick on August 4) and a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus, reports American Medical News. Adding an H1N1 strain to the seasonal vaccine should make this flu season easier for physicians than last year, said Robert A. Salata, MD, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and HIV Medicine at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland.

In addition, health providers should not see a repeat of last year's shortages and delays, with five manufacturers expected to produce about 170 million seasonal flu vaccine doses, which began shipping in late July.

"The manufacturers are telling us they're going to be producing abundant supplies of vaccines, so there is no need for providers to hold onto vaccines. They should use them as they get them," said Tom Skinner, spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When the vaccine arrives, the first doses should be administered to health professionals, said William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn. After staff is immunized, doctors can begin vaccinating patients, he said.

Julie Boom, MD, MPH, director of infant and childhood immunization at the Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, encourages doctors who receive the flu vaccine in August to use back-to-school physicals as a chance to vaccinate patients, including college students.

To learn more:
- read this article from American Medical News
- see this Associated Press story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer