Sep 6, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – Influenza vaccine manufacturers expect to make and distribute more than 100 million doses in the next few months, millions more than in any previous flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today.
The predicted total is about 17 million more than the current record for doses distributed—83.1 million in 2003, the CDC said. Last year about 81.2 million doses were distributed.
Although the flow of vaccine is always hard to predict, CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said in a news release, "If the manufacturers' estimates hold, more people than ever before will be able to protect themselves and their loved ones from influenza this year."
Manufacturers expect that about 75 million doses will be distributed by the end of October, followed by most of the rest in November, the CDC said. Remaining doses should reach clinics by early January. Last year about 60 million doses were distributed by the end of October, officials said.
Producers and major distributors intend to "provide some influenza vaccine by the end of October to all providers who ordered it," the statement said.
"We expect that some healthcare providers and clinics may get or have more influenza vaccine than others in the first month or so, but people will have plenty of opportunities to be vaccinated during October and November, as well as December or later," Dr. Lance Rodewald, director of the CDC's Immunization Services Division, said in the news release.
CDC officials told CIDRAP News the US vaccine supply could reach as high as 115 million doses this season if a vaccine made by the Canadian firm ID Biomedical, now part of GlaxoSmithKline, wins Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval soon.
"We're hoping it'll be licensed in September, but we don't know," said Rodewald.
Curtis Allen, spokesman for the CDC's National Immunization Program, said ID Biomedical might contribute 10 million to 15 million doses to the US supply if the vaccine is licensed. Some of those doses wouldn't be available until after December, he said.
Last week Bloomberg News reported that a slow-growing strain of virus used in this year's vaccine could delay delivery of some of the doses destined for Americans by up to 3 weeks. The report said the three biggest suppliers to the US market—Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, and Sanofi Pasteur—have had trouble growing the influenza A(H3N2) strain in this year's vaccine.
But Rodewald told CIDRAP News he does not expect that problem to affect the US supply this season.
"I think some of the European manufacturers were using a different strain, but all the vaccine made for the American market used a strain that was not the slow grower, so we haven't seen problems with the slow-growing strain here in the US," he said.
The CDC recommends getting flu shots in October or November, before the flu season usually begins, but says vaccination is still worthwhile in December or later, because the season typically doesn't peak until February.
This year the agency recommended for the first time that 2-, 3-, and 4-year-olds and their household contacts and caregivers receive flu shots. The recommendation added an estimated 16 million people to the population for whom the shots are advised. Children between 6 and 23 months and their close contacts were included in the flu immunization recommendations 2 years ago.
Other groups advised to get flu shots, according to the CDC, include:
- Children and adolescents (6 months through 18 years) on long-term aspirin therapy
- Women who will be pregnant during the flu season
- Adults and children who have asthma, other chronic respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, or any condition that can impair respiratory function
- Adults and children under treatment for chronic metabolic disorders, kidney problems, hemoglobinopathies, or immunodeficiency
- Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities
- People age 50 and older
- Healthcare workers
- Close contacts of people at high risk for severe flu complications.
Sep 6 CDC news release on projected flu vaccine supply
Jun 29 CIDRAP News story "CDC recommends flu shots for more toddlers"