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Influenza Vaccine for the 2022-2023 Season: An Overview

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Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone aged six months and older as the most effective way to prevent the flu. Continue reading to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Published At June 21, 2023
Reviewed AtMay 30, 2024

What Is Influenza?

Influenza, or seasonal flu, is an infection that affects the respiratory system and results in symptoms associated with breathing. The influenza virus is what caused this infection and is of four types: A, B, C, and D. Among these types, influenza A and B cause epidemics. Influenza B viruses are categorized into two lineages, namely B/Yamagata and B/Victoria. These are the types of influenza B viruses currently circulating. The influenza C virus is less common and typically leads to mild infections, making it less significant in terms of public health. Influenza D viruses mainly impact cattle and do not infect or cause illness in humans. Influenza can be severe, especially for high-risk groups. Furthermore, it spreads easily through droplets and contaminated hands. There are several treatment options available for treating influenza. However, vaccination is the best prevention, and antiviral treatment is better for severe cases. In addition, personal hygiene measures are important for prevention. This article will discuss the latest influenza vaccine.

What Are the WHO Recommendations for Annual Influenza Vaccination?

The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly advises annual influenza vaccination for various groups of individuals to safeguard their health and well-being. These recommendations target specific populations that are more vulnerable to the effects of influenza, ensuring they receive the necessary protection against the influenza virus.

Pregnant women, regardless of their stage of pregnancy, are among the groups prioritized for annual flu vaccination. This proactive measure aims to safeguard both the mother and the developing fetus, as pregnant women may experience severe complications if infected with the flu. Therefore, it is necessary to advise pregnant women about the influenza virus.

Children aged between six months and five years are also recommended to receive an annual influenza vaccination. This age group is particularly susceptible to influenza-related complications, and immunization plays a crucial role in reducing their risk and promoting overall health.

Elderly individuals, those aged more than 65 years, are another key target for annual flu vaccination. With age, the immune system weakens, making older adults more susceptible to severe influenza symptoms and complications. Vaccination helps fortify their immune response and reduce the likelihood of flu-related hospitalizations and fatalities.

Individuals with chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory disorders, are highly encouraged to receive the annual flu vaccination. These underlying health conditions can exacerbate the effects of influenza, leading to severe illness. Vaccination offers an additional layer of defense, minimizing the risk of complications and promoting better health outcomes.

Healthcare workers, due to their frequent exposure to infected individuals, are recommended to undergo an annual influenza vaccination. By protecting themselves, healthcare workers reduce the likelihood of contracting and spreading the flu to vulnerable patients, ensuring the continuity of essential healthcare services and preventing healthcare-associated influenza outbreaks.

What Type of Flu Shot Is Given in 2023?

Flu vaccines are updated each year to target the specific influenza viruses expected to be prevalent in the upcoming season. Even if the vaccine does not completely prevent flu infection, it can still lessen the severity of the illness and reduce the risk of serious complications, like hospitalization or death.

Flu vaccines are widely available at various locations, such as doctor's offices, public health departments, pharmacies, workplaces, and schools. Getting immunized should not be put off. There are several different formulations of flu vaccines currently on the market. They are: inactivated influenza vaccinations (IIV4), recombinant influenza vaccines (RIV4), and live attenuated influenza vaccines (LAIV4). Each vaccine is licensed for specific age groups, and there are some vaccines that are not recommended for certain individuals.

For the 2022-2023 flu season in the US, all available vaccines are quadrivalent, meaning they provide protection against four different flu viruses. This includes two strains of influenza A viruses and two strains of influenza B viruses.

Furthermore, the FDA's (Food and Drug Administration) advisory committee met to choose the influenza viruses for the 2022-2023 U.S. flu vaccine. They reviewed surveillance data and recommended specific strains for egg-based and cell- or recombinant-based vaccines. For the quadrivalent formulation, they recommended specific strains for each type of vaccine. For trivalent vaccines, they recommended using the same strains as the quadrivalent vaccines, depending on the manufacturing method.

What Are the Three Flu Vaccines?

There are three flu vaccines that have been specially recommended for persons 65 and older during the 2022–2023 flu season. These comprise the quadrivalent high-dose inactivated influenza vaccine, the quadrivalent recombinant influenza vaccine, and the quadrivalent adjuvanted inactivated influenza vaccine. If none of these three vaccines are available, older adults can receive any other flu vaccine that is appropriate for their age.

In the US, there are different types of flu vaccines available. These include standard-dose flu vaccines without adjuvant, which are made using viruses grown in eggs and are approved for individuals aged six months and older. There is also a cell-based standard-dose flu vaccine without adjuvants, which is manufactured using cell culture and is also approved for individuals aged six months and older.

Inactivated flu vaccines are recommended for adults aged 65 years and older and are given as an injection into the muscle. There is a high-dose, egg-based influenza vaccine that contains four times the antigen compared to a standard-dose vaccine. Additionally, there is a standard-dose, adjuvanted egg-based influenza vaccine. The recombinant flu vaccine, which is created without using eggs or influenza viruses, is authorized for use in anyone over the age of 18, and it contains three times as much antigen as a standard-dose vaccination. This vaccine is one of the three preferentially recommended vaccines for adults aged 65 years and older.

Also available is the live attenuated influenza nasal spray vaccine (LAIV4), which contains flu viruses that have been weakened and is approved for use in individuals ages 2 to 49. However, it is not recommended for pregnant women or individuals with certain medical conditions.

It is important to note that influenza vaccines should be used with caution in individuals who have a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome within six weeks of receiving a previous influenza vaccine dose.

Is It Safe and Possible to Receive Both COVID-19 Vaccines and Flu Vaccines Simultaneously?

It is recommended and considered safe to receive both COVID-19 vaccines and flu vaccines at the same time. It is important to note that influenza vaccines are specifically designed to provide protection against the flu, while COVID-19 vaccines are developed to combat the COVID-19 virus. Therefore, it is necessary to receive both vaccines in order to enhance the level of protection against these two separate respiratory infections, which can pose significant health risks. By ensuring immunization against both influenza and COVID-19, individuals can take proactive measures to minimize the potential impact of these respiratory illnesses on their health and well-being.

Conclusion

Influenza can turn into a deadly disease if it gets worse. Therefore, annual flu vaccination is strongly recommended for everyone aged six months and older as the most effective way to prevent the flu and its complications. Individuals should update themselves regarding the vaccination schedule and get their vaccination done timely.

Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha
Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Infectious Diseases

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