August 1, 2010

Flu Vaccines Being Shipped Early

The US flu vaccine market is seeing one of its earliest starts in distribution, as two flu vaccine makers announced Friday they had started shipping supplies.

Reuters reports that Sanofi Aventis is shipping 70 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine, while GlaxoSmithKline is shipping 30 million doses of FluLaval vaccine and Fluarix combined. The 70 million doses for Sanofi Aventis are the company's largest production run ever.

Sanofi said in a statement that the company this year will also be "launching Fluzone High-Dose (Influenza Virus Vaccine) for people 65 years of age and older."

Tests show that people over 65 have a weaker immune response but get better protection when immunized with stronger vaccines.

GlaxoSmithKline said it would be shipping its own flu vaccine, Fluarix, in a few weeks.

The US Centers for Disease Control says manufacturers have forecasted that they will have 170 million doses of flu vaccine for the 2010-2011 US flu season. The US government shipped 162 million doses of H1N1 vaccine last year, but only 90 million were used.

The CDC recommends that everyone should be vaccinated this year.

In most years, seasonal influenza infects between 5 and 20 percent of US citizens and kills 36,000 people. About 200,000 are hospitalized each year.

But last year, the swine flu pandemic replaced virtually all other flu strains. It was about as deadly as seasonal flu but instead of striking the elderly, it affected young adults, children and pregnant women.

The 2010-2011 seasonal flu vaccine will include the H1N1 vaccine, plus most common strains of H3N2 and influenza B.

"The labeling for one vaccine, CSL Limited's Afluria, has undergone changes this season to inform health care providers about an increased incidence of fever and febrile seizure, which was seen in young children, mainly those younger than 5 years, following administration of the 2010 Southern Hemisphere formulation of CSL's influenza vaccine," the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a statement.

"CSL Limited will not be supplying the United States with the 0.25 milliliter single-dose, pre-filled syringes, which are used in very young children," it added.

The FDA said it asked CSL to conduct studies of its vaccine in children.


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