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April 4, 1977

Influenza: Vaccines or Amantadine?

JAMA. 1977;237(14):1445. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270410045017

WITH the abrupt end of the National Influenza Immunization Program on Dec 16, 1976, because of complications arising from the vaccine administration, another serious look at amantadine hydrochloride in the prophylaxis and treatment of respiratory tract infections caused by influenza type A is indicated. It has been pointed out by Herrmann (Medical Tribune, Oct 20, 1976, pp 25-26) and other authors1,2 that amantadine offers a viable alternative to vaccines for chemoprophylaxis and chemotherapy of influenza in our communities. This report summarizes recent findings and compares amantadine and the vaccines in six areas.

Antigenic Specificity.—  As the influenza type A virus undergoes modification, either through antigenic shift (major modification) or antigenic drift (minor modification), so must the vaccine. Immunity against a prior strain does not necessarily confer immunity against a forthcoming strain. Amantadine is effective against all strains of influenza type A. Every strain we have associated with epidemic influenza