FLU NEWS SCAN: Pandemic vaccine uptake, vaccine doses pulled, virus-related patents

Apr 4, 2011

Pandemic vaccine coverage in Germany was low
German uptake of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine was low in people older than 14, standing at about 8% for the general population and at almost 13% in healthcare workers and those with underlying medical conditions. Researchers reported their findings in an Apr 2 online article in Vaccine. They based their study on 13 telephone surveys that were conducted between November 2009 and April 2010. During the pandemic the German government purchased an adjuvanted monovalent vaccine (Pandremix, made by GlaxoSmithKline) for high-risk groups and the general public and an unadjuvanted vaccine made by CSL for pregnant women. They found that people who received seasonal flu immunizations were more likely to receive the pandemic vaccine. The authors concluded that pandemic vaccine uptake was low when compared with that in some other industrialized countries. For example, the coverage for healthcare workers was about 37% in the United States and 85% in the Netherlands. The researchers concluded that the low pandemic vaccination rates are a concern, particularly for at-risk groups, and signal the need to improve future pandemic vaccination and communication strategies.
Apr 2 Vaccine abstract

WHO details virus-related patents in pandemic preparedness report
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Apr 1 released a report compiled by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), another United Nations agency, on flu pandemic preparedness patents and patent applications. The report's purpose is to assist the WHO's virus-sharing working group, which over the past several years has been grappling with how to assure that developing countries that share influenza viruses with the international research community and pharmaceutical industry benefit from the resulting vaccines, medications, and diagnostic tests. The WIPO report covers patents related to the H5N1 avian influenza virus and the 2009 H1N1 virus. The group identified 27 "patent families" clearly relevant to H5N1 and four patent families relevant to H1N1, all of them involving viral components or derivatives thereof. The authors found 35 more H5N1 and eight more H1N1 patent families that may be relevant. Of the patents that were relevant, 73% were vaccines, 24% were diagnostics, and 3% were therapeutics. None of the patents consisted of a sole element, such as a native virus. They also identified some patents that included known viral sequences. They found a number of patents from developed-world companies that are now co-owned by companies in developing countries, which they said could be an emerging model for ensuring broader access to new technology. The WHO's virus-sharing working group is slated to report on its latest developments at the World Health Assembly, scheduled for May 16 to 24 in Geneva.
Apr 1 WHO/WIPO pandemic influenza patent report

Narcolepsy concern prompts Ireland to pull remaining Pandemrix doses
Ireland's health ministry has decided to pull all remaining supplies of Pandemrix, the monovalent pandemic H1N1 vaccine, from general practitioner (GP) offices because of the suspected link to narcolepsy cases, the Independent newspaper reported yesterday. Eight narcolepsy cases have been reported in Pandemrix recipients in Ireland, most of them in young people. An increased risk of narcolepsy has also been reported in vaccinees in Finland and Sweden. Dr. Kevin Kelleher of the Irish Health Service Executive advised physicians in January not to use Pandemrix unless there was a shortage of seasonal flu vaccine (which contains the 2009 H1N1 strain). In a recent letter, Kelleher told physicians that remaining supplies of Pandemrix would be picked up from GP sites in the next few weeks, the newspaper reported. He said there has been no need to use the monovalent vaccine because extra supplies of seasonal vaccine were delivered.
Apr 3 Independent story

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