August 1, 2012

Preparing Early for This Year’s Flu Vaccine Season

Swiftwater, PA—It may still be the middle of summer, but it is not too early to begin gearing up for influenza vaccine season.

Sanofi Pasteur said the first lots of Fluzone vaccine began shipping to U.S. health care providers in late July, following FDA licensure of the 2012-2013 formulation. The company, which said it will ultimately ship more than 60 million doses of seasonal influenza vaccine, said it wanted to give health care providers a head start on meeting immunization recommendations.

"It is a tremendous logistical challenge for public health to try to immunize everyone 6 months of age and older in the few months prior to influenza season," said Chad Hoover, vice president, chief commercial officer of Sanofi Pasteur U.S. "As the supplier of nearly half of the nation's influenza vaccine, it was a critical challenge for us to be early to market so that health care providers had confidence in their supply of influenza vaccine. With the confidence of early vaccine delivery, health care providers can start immunizing sooner and commit to scheduling immunization clinics throughout the season."

Sanofi Pasteur also announced that all formulations of Fluzone vaccines will now have the label, "does not contain latex," with the change in syringe caps for two formulations.

In the Northern Hemisphere, according to the CDC, this year's flu vaccine will include three vaccine viruses:

• an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus;
• an A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus;
• a B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus (from the B/Yamagata lineage of viruses).

The H1N1 virus is the same as in the 2011-2012 season, but the H3N2 and B vaccine viruses have changed from last year.

The CDC also issued some consumer information on Fluzone High-Dose influenza vaccine, designed to improve immune response in older recipients, although it says it currently is not expressing a preference for the vaccine.

"Human immune defenses become weaker with age, which places older people at greater risk of severe illness from influenza," the CDC notes. "Also, aging decreases the body's ability to have a good immune response after getting influenza vaccine."

The agency points out that an ongoing study of the effectiveness of Fluzone High-Dose is expected to be completed by the 2014-2015 flu season.

Sanofi-Pasteur said both its Fluzone High-Dose vaccine, which was introduced in 2010 for adults 65 years of age and older, and the Fluzone Intradermal vaccine, which was introduced in 2011 with limited availability, will be more widely available this year. The Fluzone Intradermal vaccine features an ultra-fine needle that is 90% shorter than the needle typically used for intramuscular injections.

The first doses of Fluzone vaccine were shipped to Alaska and Hawaii and to the CDC's Vaccines for Children program. Pharmacies that have placed reservations with Sanofi Pasteur will begin receiving shipments in August with orders completed by the end of September. The company noted that vaccine supply is still available for reservation.

An online tool ( will be available in in early August for consumers looking for a specific vaccine option such as the high-dose or intradermal products.

A quadravalent vaccine is not expected to be available for this flu season, although a four-component version of FluMist, manufactured by MedImmune, LLC, was licensed for use in the U.S. earlier this year.

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect