Pandemic Flu Vaccine Planning
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Pandemic Influenza Plan Appendix F: Current HHS Activities last revised on November 8, 2005:
- Currently, influenza vaccine for the annual, seasonal influenza program comes from four manufacturers. However, only a single manufacturer produces the annual vaccine entirely within the U.S. Thus, if a pandemic occurred and existing U.S.-based influenza vaccine manufacturing capacity was completely diverted to producing a pandemic vaccine, supply would be severely limited. Moreover, because the annual influenza manufacturing process takes place during most of the year, the time and capacity to produce vaccine against potential pandemic viruses for a stockpile, while continuing annual influenza vaccine production, is limited. Since supply will be limited, it is critical for HHS to be able to direct vaccine distribution in accordance with predefined groups (see Appendix D); HHS will ensure the building of capacity and will engage states in a discussion about the purchase and distribution of pandemic influenza vaccine.
- Vaccine production capacity: The protective immune response generated by current influenza vaccines is largely based on viral hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) antigens in the vaccine. As a consequence, the basis of influenza vaccine manufacturing is growing massive quantities of virus in order to have sufficient amounts of these protein antigens to stimulate immune responses. Influenza vaccines used in the United States and around world are manufactured by growing virus in fertilized hens’ eggs, a commercial process that has been in place for decades. To achieve current vaccine production targets millions of 11-day old fertilized eggs must be available every day of production.
- In the near term, further expansion of these systems will provide additional capacity for the U.S.-based production of both seasonal and pandemic vaccines, however, the surge capacity that will be needed for a pandemic response cannot be met by egg-based vaccine production alone, as it is impractical to develop a system that depends on hundreds of millions of 11-day old specialized eggs on a standby basis. In addition, because a pandemic could result from an avian influenza strain that is lethal to chickens, it is impossible to ensure that eggs will be available to produce vaccine when needed.
- In contrast, cell culture manufacturing technology can be applied to influenza vaccines as they are with most viral vaccines (e.g., polio vaccine, measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, chickenpox vaccine). In this system, viruses are grown in closed systems such as bioreactors containing large numbers of cells in growth media rather than eggs. The surge capacity afforded by cell-based technology is insensitive to seasons and can be adjusted to vaccine demand, as capacity can be increased or decreased by the number of bioreactors or the volume used within a bioreactor. In addition to supporting basic research on cell-based influenza vaccine development, HHS is currently supporting a number of vaccine manufacturers in the advanced development of cell-based influenza vaccines with the goal of developing U.S.-licensed cell-based influenza vaccines produced in the United States.
- Dose-sparing technologies. Current U.S.-licensed vaccines stimulate an immune response based on the quantity of HA (hemagglutinin) antigen included in the dose. Methods to stimulate a strong immune response using less HA antigen are being studied in H5N1 and H9N2 vaccine trials. These include changing the mode of delivery from intramuscular to intradermal and the addition of immune-enhancing adjuvant to the vaccine formulation. Additionally, HHS is soliciting contract proposals from manufacturers of vaccines, adjuvants, and medical devices for the development and licensure of influenza vaccines that will provide dose-sparing alternative strategies.
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