New flu vaccine could be used more widely than current versions

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A new type of influenza vaccine was approved Wednesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and will soon be available in limited quantities, providing another weapon against the seasonal virus wreaking havoc in long-term care settings around the country.

The new vaccine, created by Connecticut-based Protein Sciences and called Flublok, does not use chicken eggs as part of the production process, making it viable for people concerned about egg allergies. It can also be produced faster than previous flu vaccines, the FDA said.

Flublok is produced from an influenza virus protein harvested from infected insect cells grown in culture, The New York Times reported.

In a test involving 2,300 people, Flublok showed a 44.6% effectiveness rate against all circulating flu strains, according to the FDA.

The new vaccine has been approved for use in those ages 18 to 49, but Protein Sciences says approval for all ages is expected. This should be good news for nursing homes and other LTC facilities that have had to cope with an early and severe flu season. Older flu victims have a higher mortality rate than other groups, so officials in some cases mandate vaccination for healthcare workers in these settings. Recently, controversy erupted when some workers were fired for refusing the vaccine.

In another positive breakthrough, five patients suffering severe respiratory problems from the flu recovered after being treated with Extra Corporeal Lung Support, a type of artificial lung system usually used in transplants. The results were announced Thursday by the University Health Network in Canada.

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