A new kind of insect-based flu vaccine has been approved for adults by the Food and Drug Administration. It's the first version that is not grown in eggs, meaning people with egg allergies can receive it.
The FDA announced that the vaccine, called FluBlok and produced by Protein Sciences Corp, is different from other vaccines, as it can be made more rapidly in the event of a pandemic "because it is not dependent on an egg supply or on availability of the influenza virus," Dr. Karen Midthun, M.D., director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the FDA, said in an agency statement.
Another way it's different? The process of making it involves insect cells.
Instead, Flublok's production involves programming insect cells grown in steel tanks to produce large amounts of a particular flu virus protein, known as hemagglutinin, according to Protein Sciences, the vaccine's manufacturer.
According to a FluBlok press release, the vaccine also does not contain preservatives, including the mercury-containing thimerosal. It is designed to protect against the H1N1, H3N2, both A strains and one B strain of the influenza virus, and is approved for people between ages 18 and 49.
The safety of FluBlok was tested in a study of 2,300 people; common side effects included muscle aches, headache, fatigue and pain in the area the shot was administered (which the FDA noted are common symptoms for any kind of flu shot). It was found to be 44.6 percent effective against all strains of the flu, the FDA reported.
A relatively small amount of the vaccine is expected to be available by this winter, the New York Times reported, though the FDA noted that the timing of the approval had nothing to do with the current flu outbreak. Protein Sciences Corp said that the vaccine would be largely available for the next 2013-2014 flu season.