WHO Recommends H1N1 Be Added To Next Year’s Seasonal Flu Virus

The WHO is recommending the H1N1 (swine flu) virus be added to the regular flu vaccine for the Northern Hemisphere’s 2010-2011 regular flu season, the Associated Press reports (2/18).

The recommendations, announced Thursday, came after a “closed-door four-day meeting” of WHO influenza experts, Reuters reports. According to the news service, the announcement “means governments that have stockpiled doses of H1N1 swine flu vaccine may now use them for part of the seasonal flu vaccine mix.”

“If they have the vaccine strain which is already made up and can be used, then they’re ahead of the game,” Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s top influenza expert, told Reuters after the meeting.

“The other strains [to be added to next year’s flu vaccine] are H3N2 – which like H1N1 is a type of influenza A – and influenza B,” Reuters continues. “Fukuda said national health regulatory authorities would have to decide whether to combine the three strains into a single ‘trivalent’ shot, administer three separate vaccines, or use a separate H1N1 shot and combine the other two in one shot” (Nebehay, 2/18).

Ahead of the announcement, Reuters in a separate story examines how consideration of the H1N1 pandemic complicated the advisory group’s recommendations. “Although the pandemic is on the wane, the virus is still infecting and killing people,” the news service writes. The piece includes several options the flu advisory committee considered before issuing their recommendations (Fox, 2/18).

In related news, NPR’s “Morning Edition” examines the current state of the H1N1 pandemic and preparations for next year’s flu season (Knox/Wertheimer, 2/18).

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