This is the eleventh year that the seasonal flu vaccine is being offered to Ontarians as part of the Universal Influenza Immunization Program. Every year, the vaccine is manufactured in the same way. The World Health Organization (WHO) determines which three strains of the flu are likely to have the biggest effect on the population worldwide. In their laboratories, they produce new flu vaccine strains and provide them to the manufacturers for production.
For the 2010-2011 flu season, the vaccine protects against the following WHO-recommended strains:
- A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like strain (this is the pandemic strain from 2009)
- A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like strain, and
- B/Brisbane/60/2008-like strain.
This year’s seasonal vaccine is non-adjuvanted. An adjuvant is sometimes added to a vaccine (such as in last year’s pandemic H1N1 vaccine) to boost the body’s ability to create antibodies, thus requiring a smaller dose of the antigen, the active ingredient in the vaccine. An antigen was added to last year’s pandemic H1N1 vaccine to allow vaccine to be produced faster.
Health Canada plays a very important role in ensuring that the vaccine is safe.
Health Canada evaluates the quality, safety and efficacy of the vaccine that is provided by the manufacturers. Samples of the vaccine are tested in Health Canada labs to ensure consistency in manufacturing. After Health Canada approves the vaccine, the manufacturer then ships across Canada.
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, along with public health units and the Public Health Agency of Canada monitor for adverse events throughout the flu season. The most common side effects from a flu shot are redness and swelling at the injection site.