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jayboy

Northern hemisphere flu vaccine

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My wife has been in touch with a number of well known vaccination centres in Bangkok about the availability of northern hemisphere flu vaccine.The response has been a bit disappointing.Not only have they have no supplies in stock but they don't seem to understand what it is or why people might need it.

 

We will persevere and I'm sure we'll eventually find more clued up people in one of the larger hospitals or clinics.However my question is this.I know the vaccination only provides partial protection and has to be updated yearly by the producers to take account of changed strains.But if one was travelling to Europe in their flu season would the southern hemisphere vaccine provide at least some level of protection or at least be better than nothing?

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We got our shots in June 2019 here in Thailand. I think a new flu vaccine will be available in May 2020. Thailand's flu season usually coincides with its wet season, around June to October each year. Here is some info I found. My conclusion is either get it here, or get it there as soon as possible when you arrive. Either way should be fine. Some years I have gotten it in the U.S. That was before I knew there were two vaccines for the two different hemispheres. From this information it seems that the two vaccines overlap and will offer protection in either hemisphere.

 

https://www.who.int/ith/vaccines/si_iAh1n1/en/ "The composition of vaccines is adjusted for the hemisphere in which the vaccine will be used. Thus, a vaccine obtainable in one hemisphere may offer only partial protection against influenza infection in the other hemisphere, although in some years the viruses in the northern and southern vaccines may be identical. In years in which the northern and southern hemisphere influenza vaccine strains differ, high-risk individuals travelling from one hemisphere to the other shortly before or during the other hemisphere’s influenza season should obtain vaccination for the opposite hemisphere two weeks before travel. Where this is not possible, the traveller should arrange vaccination as soon as possible after arriving at the travel destination."

The flu shot we got in 2019 in Thailand includes:

If you get the 4 strain shot:
-an A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus;
-an A/Switzerland/8060/2017 (H3N2)-like virus;
-a B/Colorado/06/2017-like virus (B/Victoria/2/87 lineage); and
-a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (B/Yamagata/16/88 lineage).

If you get the 3 strain shot it leaves out the last one.

https://www.who.int/influenza/vaccines/virus/recommendations/2019_south/en/

The northern hemisphere flu shot contains:
-an A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus;
-an A/Kansas/14/2017 (H3N2)-like virus; *
-a B/Colorado/06/2017-like virus (B/Victoria/2/87 lineage); and
-a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (B/Yamagata/16/88 lineage).

So you see the last two strains are the same for the northern and southern hemisphere. And even if the strains aren't exactly the same in the vaccine vs in real life, if they are similar it provides some protection.

 

https://flunewseurope.org/
Week 06/2020 (3–9 February 2020): Widespread influenza activity was reported in Europe. Both influenza virus types A and B were co-circulating. Of the type A detections, A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses were detected more often (57%) and of the influenza B viruses, the vast majority were B/Victoria lineage.
2019/20 season overview: Both influenza A virus subtypes, A(H1N1)pdm09 and A(H3N2), are co-circulating, 60% and 40% respectively. Of the influenza B viruses, the vast majority (99%) has been B/Victoria lineage. 
 

And lastly, in the northern hemisphere "The 2019-2020 flu season has been particularly unusual. Influenza B, the viral strain that usually circulates toward the end of flu season, instead emerged first this year. The 2019-2020 flu shot was formulated to protect against strains of both influenza A and B. It’s too soon to say exactly how effective the flu vaccine will be this year, Brammer says. Early indications suggest the vaccine is quite well-matched to circulating H1N1 and B Yamagata viruses— but much less so against the widespread influenza B Victoria viruses. That, too, may help explain the early-season diagnoses." Jan 16, 2020 https://time.com/5765486/flu-season-2020/

 

They are saying the B Victoria in the vaccine doesn't match the B Victoria in the environment. Good luck! And have a nice trip.

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