Senators want wider distribution of flu vaccine

MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH)– The flu shot you got this year might not be working well, but Meriden-based Protein Sciences may have the solution. Getting protected from the flu is important, just ask Connecticut’s senior Senator.

“The flu is a killer,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal “The flu kills thousands of Americans every year even in a good year.”

That’s bad news. The worse news is the flu shot most people got this year doesn’t seem to be working very well against the H3N2 strain that doctors are seeing.

“More than half of the H3N2 viruses that are being detected are unmatched or drifted from what’s contained in the flu vaccine,” according to Dr. Rachel Fellerbaum, the Communications Director for Protein Sciences.

The problem with the flu shot you may have already gotten is eggs. Traditionally, the flu vaccine is grown inside chicken eggs. This year’s H3N2 flu strain does not grow well in eggs, that’s why it’s not working. Protein Sciences uses a different method to make its Flublok vaccine.

“Flublok, first of all, is made using the genetic code instead of having to use the flu virus,” said Dr. Fellerbaum.

The DNA method also means Protein Sciences can make more vaccine, fast, without waiting for it to grow in eggs. Since it’s better and faster, Connecticut’s Senators held a press conference at the company’s Meriden headquarters to call on the Centers for Disease Control to buy a quarter million doses and start distributing them.

“I hope that the CDC is listening because it can buy this very effective vaccine and buy it in American,” Senator Blumenthal said.

That’s the other benefit to the vaccine from Meriden. It’s from Meriden. All the egg guys are in other countries.

“From a national security perspective, it makes sense to have capacity to build vaccines here in the United States,” said Sen. Chris Murphy. “So that we aren’t reliant on other countries to do that as well.”

Flublok is more expensive, selling for $32 a dose versus around $20 for most other flu shots. Both senators stressed that the egg-based flu shot is better than nothing, so if that is your only option, go ahead and get it, especially for young kids, the elderly, or people with compromised immune systems.

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