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WHO issues recommendations on next season's flu vaccine composition
World | society | 17:27, 22 February 2019 | 1202

AKIPRESS.COM - The World Health Organization issued new recommendations on the composition of the influenza vaccines for use in the 2019-20 flu season in the Northern Hemisphere.

A WHO advisory group issued the recommendations after a meeting in Beijing sponsored by the National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention, which is part of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the country's leading public health agency.

Between September and January, the H1N1, H3N2 and influenza B strains predominated globally. Most cases this season are the milder H1N1 variety.

The advisory board recommended that next year’s flu vaccine cover the H1N1 strain and two types of the influenza B virus. The H3N2 strain will also be covered, the board said. The specific subtype will be announced in March.

“In light of recent changes in the proportions of genetically and antigenically diverse A(H3N2) viruses, the recommendation for the A(H3N2) component has been postponed,” WHO said in a statement.

WHO convenes advisers in February and September each year to recommend viruses for inclusion in the vaccines for the upcoming influenza season. Flu strains are different in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, so WHO holds separate meetings to discuss each region.

The recommendations are used by the national vaccine regulatory agencies and pharmaceutical companies to develop, produce and license influenza vaccines.

Every flu vaccine is a cocktail, aimed at either three or four of the most common flu strains. Flu vaccines must be reformulated every year because flu viruses mutate constantly in a process called antigenic drift. This season’s flu shot contains four strains — H1N1, H3N2, Influenza A and Influenza B — in what’s known as a quadrivalent vaccine.

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