Latest quadrivalent vaccine joins list of available flu vaccine
A quadrivalent influenza vaccine consisting of H1N1, H3N2, B-Yamagata and B-Victoria strains is now available locally.
“Influenza viruses are constantly changing, which is why it is possible to catch the flu more than once. Annual vaccination, particularly around flu season, is a way to protect yourself, family and friends, said Dr Rupert Jakes, Medical Affairs Director, Vaccines, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Pharmaceutical Sdn Bhd, Malaysia. By targeting four flu strains, this new vaccine can provide better protection than its trivalent predecessors, he said.
Flu can be a severe condition, particularly if it occurs in more vulnerable patients, said Professor Yasmin Malik, visiting senior clinical consultant, University Malaya Medical Centre. Even if the patient is not hospitalized, he can develop serious complications such as heart attack and stroke. With the availability of flu vaccines, the risk of serious complications can be reduced.
In temperate countries, the incidence of influenza rises in the winter because of virus mutations, and preference for cold and dry weather conditions, said Yasmin. Meanwhile, in tropical countries like Malaysia, influenza occurs year-round with no seasonal trends. However, there is an increase in infections during rainy seasons.
Elaborating on influenza statistic in the country, she said serosurveillance using molecular tests showed that influenza viruses were detected in 13 percent of respiratory samples obtained from patients with influenza-like illness. This suggests that the incidence of the virus infection is underestimated.
Influenza can lead to serious complications, particularly in pregnant women, children between the ages of 6 and 59 months, the elderly—above the age of 64, those with weakened immune systems, healthcare professionals and those with specific medical conditions such as asthma and chronic heart disease, said Yasmin.
Complications that may occur include Guillain-Barre syndrome, acute viral encephalitis in children, Reye’s syndrome in children, increased risk of heart attack and stroke, and pneumonia.
The vaccine is an inactivated influenza vaccine that is indicated for adults, and children above the age of 2. It has been shown to be well-tolerated in children, adults and the elderly. The vaccine is to be administered intramuscularly, preferably in the deltoid or anterolateral thigh muscles.
Yasmin and Jakes were speaking at the media launch of Fluarix Tetra by GSK, held recently in Kuala Lumpur.