Jeffrey S. Duchin
Sanofi Pasteur, the largest provider of influenza vaccines in the United States, said shipments of its vaccines for the 2019-2020 season will be delayed by around 1 month because of a lag in production.
The manufacturer expects to begin shipping products in mid-August, with approximately 70 million doses to be delivered by the end of November.
Production was delayed by WHO’s decision in February to postpone recommending an H3N2 component for Northern Hemisphere vaccines by 1 month so it could collect more data and select the most appropriate virus.
“Manufacturing could not begin until the selection was made by WHO and confirmed by the FDA,” Sanofi Pasteur said in a statement. “As the single largest provider of flu vaccine to the United States, we support this decision and are committed to delivering millions of flu vaccine doses for the upcoming season.”
It is unclear what effect the delay will have on the availability of vaccines for clinicians and patients, said Jeffrey S. Duchin, MD, health officer and chief of the communicable disease epidemiology and immunization section for the Seattle and King County, Washington, public health department.
“Delayed availability of flu vaccine could potentially lead to missed opportunities for vaccination, but the overall impact of that is hard to predict and will depend on the balance of supply and demand in each community,” Duchin told Infectious Disease News.
“For adults, CDC recommends vaccination should be offered by the end of October. And most flu seasons don’t peak until February, although they can start as early as October,” he noted. “Delayed availability is probably a more significant concern for children 6 months through 8 years of age who require two doses and should receive their first dose as soon as possible after [the] vaccine becomes available, to allow the second dose — which must be administered [at least] 4 weeks later — to be received by the end of October.”
Other manufacturers have already begun shipping their influenza vaccines. A spokesperson for Seqirus confirmed that the company began shipping vaccines on July 12 and expects to deliver 50 million doses by the end of October. GlaxoSmithKline announced on July 15 that its vaccines, which will total more than 40 million doses, were ready to be shipped once cleared by the FDA.
Preliminary estimates published by the CDC showed that influenza was associated with as many as 61,200 deaths in the U.S. last season — the longest influenza season in 10 years. That followed a severe 2017-2018 season in which an estimated 900,000 people were hospitalized and 80,000 died from influenza. – by Gerard Gallagher