European Commission secures human avian flu vaccines

The European Commission has secured new human vaccine doses for member states to tackle avian influenza as part of preparedness plans.

The Commission’s Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) has signed on behalf of participating EU member states a joint procurement framework contract for the supply of up to 665,000 pre-pandemic vaccine doses of the up-to-date zoonotic influenza vaccine Seqirus. It has also signed for an option to secure an additional 40 million doses over the duration of the contract.

The vaccine is intended for individuals that are most exposed to potential transfer of avian flu from birds or animals, such as poultry farm workers and veterinarians. The vaccine is the only preventive zoonotic avian influenza vaccine currently authorized in Europe. Seqirus UK has an EU-wide modified marketing authorization for the vaccine for use in adults, which protects against flu caused by H5 strains of the influenza A virus.

Fifteen EU and EEA member states are participating in the voluntary procurement. The contract “allows each participating country to take into account their public health context and order vaccines depending on national need”. The contract will run for a maximum of four years. Shipments to Finland are currently being prepared for immediate vaccination of workers at risk of exposure, at the country’s request. Shipments to other participating countries will follow.

The Finnish Food Authority recently said it will conduct monitoring of avian influenza at fur farms from June to September. It is also testing wild birds such as waterfowl and birds of prey. The organization previously noted “several mass mortalities” of wild birds caused by avian influenza were recorded in the country last year, from which infections were most likely to spread to fur farms.

Meanwhile, agriculture officials in the US have called for an aggressive response to tackling avian flu outbreaks among dairy herds. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture said state officials are particularly concerned about the detection of H5N1 in three farmworkers. Despite this, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claimed the current public health risk remains low.

A 59-year-old Mexican man with no known exposure to infected animals also recently died from the first known human case of the H5N2 subtype of avian influenza. The WHO said the fatality does not change the risk assessment for H5N2 to human health, which is currently low. The Mexican Ministry of Health noted the patient had comorbidities including chronic kidney disease, diabetes and long-standing systemic arterial hypertension.

Source: S&P Global