The 2013 influenza season will be the first in which quadrivalent influenza vaccines will be available in the U.S. Until this year, seasonal influenza vaccines included only one B strain. Fluzone Quadrivalent vaccine includes two A strains and two B strains to help protect against influenza disease. Epidemics of influenza B occur every two to four years in all age groups. Influenza B is a common cause of influenza-related morbidity and mortality in children and has been associated with pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses, nervous system disease, muscle pain and inflammation, and other complications. In recent yea rs, up to 44 percent of influenza-associated deaths in children and adolescents 18 years of age and younger were due to influenza B.
"Sanofi Pasteur is committed to providing new immunization options for the prevention of influenza to help healthcare providers meet the specific immunization needs of all types of patients, and we are excited to introduce Fluzone Quadrivalent vaccine as an important new addition to our Fluzone family of specialized influenza vaccines," said David Greenberg, MD, Vice President U.S. Scientific and Medical Affairs, Sanofi Pasteur. "Protection against the type B flu strain may be an especially important factor that healthcare providers consider when immunizing children since influenza B causes a substantial number of illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths in the pediatric population."
Each winter the strains for the seasonal influenza vaccines are selected from the influenza strains anticipated to circulate in the Northern Hemisphere during the approaching influenza season. Seasonal influenza vaccines in the U.S. contained only two strains (one strain of type A influenza and one strain of type B influenza) until 1978, when the decision was made to incorporate a second type A influenza strain to help provide protection against both A strains that were co-circulating. For the past 35 years, influenza vaccines have been trivalent to help protect against three strains of influenza virus: a type A(H1N1), a type A(H3N2) and one type B. However, since the 2001-2002 season, two distinct influenza B types (the Victoria and Yamagata lineages) have co-circulated with varying prevalence, making it difficult to predict the next season's dominant B lineage strain. In six of the past 12 seasons, the dominant circulating B strain was from the B-lineage not selected for the vaccine. Even in years where the correct B lineage strain was selected for the vaccine, some influenza disease was caused by the B lineage omitted from the vaccine likely reducing the overall vaccine effectiveness against circulating influenza viruses.
Fluzone Quadrivalent vaccine will be available to healthcare providers in the U.S. for the 2013-2014 influenza season in prefilled syringes and single-dose vials for intramuscular administration. These presentations of Fluzone Quadrivalent vaccine do not contain preservatives and are not made with natural rubber latex.
Influenza is a serious respiratory illness. Each year in the U.S., on average, influenza and its related complications result in approximately 226,000 hospitalizations. Depending on virus severity during the influenza season, deaths can range from 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccination to help prevent influenza for everyone six months of age and older in the U.S.. Children ages six months through eight years of age receiving a flu shot for the first time need two doses approximately one month apart for the best protection.
Immunization to prevent influenza can begin as soon as vaccine is available in the late summer and early fall. However, for those who can't get vaccinated ea rly in the influenza season, such as children who are not yet six months of age or any others who missed their annual shot, immunization through the winter and even into the spring is beneficial. In fact, as long as influenza viruses are in circulation, it's not too late to get vaccinated. This is because, in many seasons, influenza activity doesn't peak until winter or early spring. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to help protect against the influenza virus.
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Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi, provides more than 1 billion doses of vaccine each year, making it possible to immunize more than 500 million people across the globe. A world leader in the vaccine industry, Sanofi Pasteur offers the broadest range of vaccines protecting against 20 infectious diseases. The company's heritage, to create vaccines that protect life, dates back more than a century. Sanofi Pasteur is the largest company entirely dedicated to vaccines. Every day, the company invests more than EUR 1 million in research and development.