Skip to main content

Regulators approve new insect-based flu vaccine

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 9:25 AM EST, Thu January 17, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Unlike other flu vaccines, Flublok doesn't rely on eggs or the influenza virus
  • Instead, it's made by growing a virus protein in insect cells
  • This allows for more rapid production in the event of a pandemic, the FDA says
  • The vaccine is available in limited supplies during the current flu season

(CNN) -- As flu season rages across the United States, federal regulators say they have approved a new kind of vaccine for the virus.

The new product, Flublok, which is available in limited supplies for the current season, is different from other flu vaccines, because it isn't made using eggs or an influenza virus, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

Instead, Flublok's production involves programming insect cells grown in steel tanks to produce large amounts of a particular flu virus protein, known as hemagglutinin, according to Protein Sciences, the vaccine's manufacturer.

Most human antibodies that fight flu infection are directed against hemagglutinin, the FDA said.

Flu vaccine attitudes abroad differ from U.S.

This method allows for more rapid production, making more of the vaccine available more quickly in the event of a pandemic, the FDA said.

Flublok, which is different from other flu vaccines, because it isn\'t made using eggs or an influenza virus, is approved only for adults ages 18 - 49.
Flublok, which is different from other flu vaccines, because it isn't made using eggs or an influenza virus, is approved only for adults ages 18 - 49.

"This approval represents a technological advance in the manufacturing of an influenza vaccine," said Karen Midthun, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

It has already been used in vaccines approved for other infectious diseases.

Flublok is approved only for adults ages 18 - 49.

Flu activity is "elevated" in most of the United States, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said last week.

Inside a flu vaccine lab
Flu fear goes to Hollywood

Manufacturers said there was plenty of vaccine for those who want to get a flu shot. But there have been reports of spot shortages, Frieden said.

Flublok will be available in limited supply this winter and widely available during the next flu season, said Protein Sciences, which is based in Meriden, Connecticut.

Flublok contains the elements necessary to help fend off three different flu strains, including H1N1 and H3N2, the regulator said.

And it proved 44.6% effective against all influenza strains in circulation, not just those that matched the strains included in the vaccine, according to the FDA.

Flu vaccine poses no risk to unborn

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Flu
updated 11:19 AM EST, Mon January 14, 2013
An early and severe start to the flu season has many health experts concerned. Here are your top 10 questions, answered.
updated 9:25 AM EST, Thu January 17, 2013
As flu season rages across the United States, federal regulators say they have approved a new kind of vaccine for the virus.
updated 9:34 AM EST, Thu January 17, 2013
Fears and misconceptions often surround the flu vaccine: Does it really work? Will it make me sick? Could it hurt my baby?
Influenza activity is spreading, creating a moderately severe flu season in the U.S. Send us photos of your flu survival kits.
updated 6:24 AM EST, Mon January 14, 2013
We can track flu outbreaks down to the county and determine much about an outbreak's severity and how the virus is spreading. But there's still much that's unknown about influenza.
updated 1:38 PM EST, Fri January 11, 2013
Parents of young children who get the flu may have a hard time finding an antiviral drug to help treat them.
updated 2:36 PM EST, Fri January 11, 2013
Flu vaccine myths can confuse people trying to decide whether to get a shot. Here are five common myths.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Mon October 14, 2013
You feel worse by the hour. Your joints ache, your head feels heavy, you can't stop coughing, you're freezing even as your temperature keeps climbing, your stomach is upset, even your eyes hurt.
updated 4:33 PM EST, Fri January 11, 2013
With so much flu activity, it's important to protect everyone around you if you feel like you are getting sick. Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
updated 5:14 AM EST, Fri January 11, 2013
How will you know if the flu has crossed the line to become deadly? CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has the story.
updated 4:28 PM EST, Fri January 11, 2013
So you got a flu vaccine this season, and you've been reading about the flu epidemic. You might be wondering: Will the vaccine keep me healthy?
updated 5:20 AM EST, Fri January 11, 2013
Carl Azuz talks to CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta about how to prevent the flu.
updated 5:44 AM EST, Fri January 11, 2013
During the past few months, I have gently suggested to my patients that they receive the flu vaccine. Many said yes, but some declined.
updated 5:59 PM EST, Wed January 9, 2013
What do you need to know when it comes to flu germs? CNN's Lisa Sylvester reports.
updated 10:31 AM EST, Fri January 11, 2013
If you go to a doctor's office or hospital any time soon, you may encounter an uncommonly long wait.. This year's flu season started earlier, and health officials say it is more widespread and more severe than usual.
updated 7:48 AM EST, Fri January 11, 2013
The common flu rarely kills the young and healthy, but the Schwolert family knows it can.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT