Doctors warn plethora of flu vaccines may confuse patients

Doctors and consumers face an unprecedented number of choices when choosing a vaccine for the upcoming flu season, with 4-in-1 and egg-free shots joining more traditional products on the market. The drive to diversify should benefit patients and manufacturers, but growing pains are expected.

Pediatricians are concerned parents will delay getting their kids vaccinated until they can source a quadrivalent shot. The four-strain vaccines are expected to provide better protection, but the new shots are unlikely to be available for everyone. "It's that interim time before these companies make enough quadrivalent vaccines to cover the number of people who use it in the U.S. and around the world," Children's Hospital of Philadelphia infectious disease chief Dr. Paul Offit told Reuters. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has no preference between the trivalent and quadrivalent jabs.

Offit expects quadrivalent vaccines will replace trivalent jabs within two years, but for now, both forms are available. The presence of both versions--as well as vaccines with novel production and delivery methods--means consumers face more options than ever. "This will be a confusing year," Mayo Clinic infectious disease specialist Dr. Gregory Poland told USA Today. New vaccines from Novartis ($NVS) and Protein Sciences cater to adults with egg allergies, while AstraZeneca's ($AZN) biotech unit, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Sanofi ($SNY) are producing quadrivalent shots.

Poland said the diversification means consumers can choose the best vaccine for their age and condition. Yet other researchers are working toward the ultimate one-size-fits-all jab--the universal flu vaccine. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Dr. Anthony Fauci gave his take on the vaccine's chances on this week.

"A universal flu vaccine likely will be developed in incremental steps rather than in one giant leap--a flu vaccine given once every 10 years, like a tetanus shot, for example, or one shot that offers cross-protection against a subgroup of related influenza viruses is more likely in the short term," Fauci wrote.

- read the Reuters article
- check out the AAP recommendations
- here's the USA Today piece
- view Fauci's post