Vaccine manufacturers have begun to deliver huge shipments of the new seasonal flu vaccine ahead of schedule. This year's shot protects against two strains of seasonal flu as well as H1N1, doing away with the two-shot approach that failed miserably last fall.
MedImmune is near the head of the line of manufacturers, triggering early shipments of its FluMist nasal spray vaccine. Novartis has also started shipping its Fluvirin early. GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) and Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE: SNY), two other major distributors, are also busy sending out vaccine supplies.
Every year manufacturers engage in what is essentially a crap shoot, designing a jab that can guard against the flu strains that raise the greatest fears. But this year's annual campaign will test public attitudes about flu vaccines. The mass attack against swine flu ended in a whimper, with public health officials around the globe either sending back or destroying millions of doses of unused vaccine. And the seasonal flu had only a mild impact in the U.S.
Meanwhile, health officials are for the first time urging that everyone from the age of 6 months and up get a shot ahead of any outbreak. However, any new public resistance to the flu shot may prevent the U.S. from achieving the 'herd' immunity needed to stop an epidemic before it starts.