Flu vaccine delay affects toddlers

Oct 17, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said yesterday that most of this year's supply of seasonal influenza vaccine for children aged 6 months through 3 years will not reach pediatricians until at least November.

Sanofi Pasteur announced last week that distribution of its Fluzone injectable vaccine—the only flu vaccine licensed for this age-group—would be about 3 weeks later than last year. Because of this, the AAP said, "Plenty of Fluzone will be available, but pediatricians will receive most of their FluZone supply in November and December."

About a third of the projected 2006 supply of Fluzone has already been sent to healthcare providers, Sanofi said in last week's announcement. "Some healthcare providers may not have their full allotment of vaccine until November or later, depending upon when and from which manufacturer they ordered," the company said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (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. The agency said last month it expected that about 75 million doses of vaccine, or three fourths of this year's supply, would be distributed by the end of October.

Delayed delivery of Fluzone does not conflict with the CDC's recommendation for immunization, Sanofi said.

The AAP is urging pediatricians to notify parents about the delay and encourage them to bring children in for vaccinations later in the year when the vaccine is available.

"The flu season does not usually peak until late December through March, so children will still benefit greatly from receiving the vaccine into December, January, and beyond," the AAP said.

However, Richard Lander, MD, a New Jersey pediatrician and chairman of the AAP's administration and practice management section, told the Associated Press yesterday that the delay is significant because children should be immunized as soon as possible. "The longer the flu vaccine is in the body, the greater chance the body can build up antibodies against the flu," he said.

In June, federal health officials recommended that toddlers aged 2 through 4 years be immunized against influenza each year, adding millions of people to the groups included in flu vaccination recommendations.

The CDC recommends that children aged 6 months to 9 years who have never received a flu shot should receive two doses of vaccine. Those who receive an injectable vaccine should have a booster 1 month or longer after the initial dose, before the onset of the flu season.

A Bloomberg News report yesterday said that Sanofi attributed the delay to a slow-growing strain of influenza used to make this year's vaccine supply. Bloomberg reported in early September that two other vaccine makers—GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis—also had trouble growing the influenza A(H3N2) strain in this year's vaccine.

In July, the US Food and Drug Administration warned Sanofi about contamination in a component of Fluzone, but the FDA and Sanofi said they did not expect the problem to significantly limit production of this season's vaccine. The company planned to make about 50 million doses, which represents roughly half of the US vaccine supply.

See also:

Oct 12 Sanofi press release
https://www.vaccineshoppe.com/secure/pdfs/release_10_12_2006.pdf

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