FDA approves upcoming seasonal flu vaccine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the approval this week of the new flu vaccine for the season starting later in 2012.

The FDA annually works with global health experts and other federal agencies on the design of a vaccine that will protect against three viral strains that are mostly likely to cause influenza. The vaccine for the upcoming season has one strain in common with the vaccine from the previous season and two new strains of the virus, Associated Press reports.

Six companies, including Novartis, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, will take part in manufacturing the vaccine.

Between five and 20 percent of Americans come down with the flu annually, which leads to 200,000 hospitalizations each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu-related deaths vary from year to year and range between 3,000 and 49,000.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people over the age of six months receive flu vaccines annually.

"The best way to prevent influenza is by getting vaccinated each year," Karen Midthun, the director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said, according to an FDA press release. "It is especially important to get vaccinated this year because two of the three virus strains used in this season's influenza vaccines differ from the strains included in last year's vaccines."