GlaxoSmithKline's 4-Strain Flu Vaccine Approved to Ship

The FDA gives approval to ship the broader-protection vaccine

By Karen Araiza and David Chang
|  Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013  |  Updated 5:12 PM EDT
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New Flu Shot Gives Broader Protection

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NBC10 got a first look at a new flu vaccine that may increase your chances in fighting the flu.

Earlier this month GlaxoSmithKline received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to begin shipping four-strain influenza vaccines to health care providers. NBC10 was granted access to GlaxoSmithKline's plant in Marietta, Pa. on Wednesday to take a look at the new vaccine, called Fluarix Quadrivalent. 

This is the first season that a vaccine to protect against more than three strains of the flu will be available. Fluarix Quadrivalent was approved in December of 2012 for people three years and older.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has placed the largest order for the new vaccine. In the U.S. alone, GlaxoSmithKline says it expects to provide up to 10 million doses of the 4-strain vaccine for the next flu season.

While getting vaccinated reduces your risk for the flu, it doesn't guarantee prevention, according to Dr. Leonard Friedland, the director of Public Health for GlaxoSmithKline.

"Vaccines are not 100 percent protective," Dr. Friedland said. "The CDC and their data from last year show that about 60 percent of people who received the influenza vaccine are protected from influenza."

The new four-strain vaccine could increase that percentage however.

"Four strain vaccines offer the opportunity for even greater protection," Dr. Friedland said.

Doctors have known for years that two different types of the "B" flu strain sicken people in the U.S. Despite this, scientists only picked one strain for the vaccine and were wrong six out of the last 11 years. The new vaccine contains both however.

"What's important about having the two "B" strains is that the guess work of deciding which "B" strain is more likely to cause disease," Dr. Friedland said. "That guess work is eliminated by having both "B" strains."

The seasonal flu kills thousands of people in the U.S. every year, many of whom were otherwise healthy. Several hospitals in our area have placed orders for the new 4-strain vaccine.

Another new vaccine, called Flublok, is set to debut this year. While it's a 3-strain, the vaccine is different from others because it isn't grown in eggs, making it an option for people with allergies.

NBC10 spoke with local residents who say they don't plan on getting the flu shot.

"My sister in law, when she got the flu shot she got the flu," said one person.

Dr. Friedland says that's not possible however.

"The vaccine is inactivated," Dr. Friedland said. "It can't make you have the flu."

According to the CDC, even the nasal spray vaccine, which contains a weakened live virus, won't sicken you with the flu. While there have been reports of reactions, the CDC says they're mild and short lived.

"What is most important is that people speak to their doctors and get vaccinated," Dr. Friedland said.

The cost of the new 4-strain vaccine is about 25 percent higher. It will be available in our area this flu season.

Aside from their Lancaster County location, GlaxoSmithKline's Philadelphia headquarters, based out of the Navy Yard, is one of two large corporate headquarters in the United States. The other is located in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. The Philly location houses the company's marketing, communications, finance, IT, HR, sales administration and other corporate functions, according to the company's website.


 

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