A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee will consider whether to change the flu vaccine for next year as the country faces a worse-than-expected flu season.
The FDA convenes a panel annually to analyze what will make up next flu season’s vaccine. The panel examines the World Health Organization’s recommendations to help decide the composition of the next year’s shots.
WHO recommended changing two of the strains that are in this year’s flu vaccine for the Northern Hemisphere, and the advisory panel will consider those changes March 1.
“Following that meeting, the FDA will also work to apply all the knowledge that we gain from this year’s flu season to ensure that the best possible vaccines are available next season to protect against the flu,” according to a statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
This year’s flu season has been “especially difficult,” according to Gottlieb. It’s resulted in 97 pediatric deaths and a record number of hospitalizations.
The FDA — along with other agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — is analyzing why the vaccine wasn’t as effective against one particular strain of the flu, which resulted in most of the illnesses this year.
“By looking closely at the available data and applying the lessons we learn each flu season to the vaccine development process, we offer the greatest chance of developing vaccines that even effectively prevent the flu in the future,” Gottlieb said in a statement.