Flu News Day, 12/21/2022
December 21st’s Flu News Day features updates on the ongoing flu season, a study relating to the role of race in the 1918 influenza pandemic, the Influenzer Initiative’s latest release and more. Read here to catch up on the latest in influenza news and funding.
2 NIAID Studies Highlight COVID-19 Nasal Vaccine Potential
Two recent studies published by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have shown efficacy for a single dose of nasal vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 among children and adults. Since SARS-CoV-2 was first identified, scientists have learned that the virus first infects the nose and throat before infecting the lungs, which can lead to severe COVID-19. The nasal vaccine can reach the nose and throat more effectively that the current COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine also produced strong antibody response to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus both in the blood and lower airways. Currently there are plans to begin a Phase I clinical trial. You can read more about both papers here.
Two Years of U.S. COVID-19 Vaccines Have Prevented Millions of Hospitalizations and Deaths
A study that estimated hospitalizations and deaths averted through a computer model of disease transmission found that the COVID-19 vaccination program in the U.S. prevented more than 18.5 million additional hospitalizations and 3.2 million additional deaths between December 2020 and November 2022. The computer model incorporated age-stratified demographics, risk factors, and immunological dynamics of infection and vaccination. The model simulated the observed pandemic trajectory to a counterfactual scenario without a vaccination program. The model also found that the vaccination program saved the U.S. $1.15 trillion in medical costs that would otherwise have been incurred. Vaccination has also preserved hospital resources for individuals who would otherwise have not received timely care. You can read more about the research here.
Just How Bad Is the ‘Tripledemic’?
Aggregated data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the current season of respiratory sickness rivals some of the worst cold and flu seasons on record. Pediatric hospitalizations for RSV are the highest recorded in a decade. Hospitalization rates due to influenza has been the highest for this time of the year in more than a decade, surpassing even hospitalizations due to COVID-19. While this month’s COVID-19 cases have been lower than those reported during the prior two Decembers (2020 & 2021), hospitalization from the three viruses have been rising together. Influenza A subtype H3 is predominantly circulating and tends to result in higher hospitalizations among the elderly, according to the US CDC. Learn more about the ‘tripledemic’ and data on RSV, COVID-19 and influenza here.
Racial Disparities in Mortality During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in United States Cities
A recent study looking into racial health inequities during the 1918 influenza pandemic found a striking reduction of non-White to White influenza and pneumonia mortality disparities in cities across the United States. The study found suggestive evidence that racial variation in childhood exposure to the 1889-1892 influenza pandemic could have reduced racial disparities in 1918. It also suggests the possibility of different behavioral response to the pandemic between racial groups. It offers an interesting perspective on disparities in infectious disease mortality by considering interactions between natural histories of microbial agents and the social histories of those they infect. The study found that excess mortality for non-White compared with White populations shrank by 74%, driven primarily by unusually high mortality among White populations aged 20–39. The findings are considered unusual since racial disparities in infectious disease mortality were staggeringly large and public health response to the pandemic were substandard for non-White communities. Read more about this research here.
The Flu Vaccine Forum
On December 7th, the Influenzer Initiative launched the Flu Vaccine Forum, a podcast and webinar series, in partnership with CIDRAP’s Influenza Vaccine R&D Roadmap (IVR) Initiative and the Global Flu Funders Consortium. The forum brings together global funders, scientific experts, and key public policy, regulatory, and public health stakeholders from across the globe to explore current efforts to reimagine and transform vaccine research, pandemic preparedness and prevention initiatives in the context of advancing next-generation, universally protective influenza vaccines (UIV) and key issues and highlights from the IVR.
In the first episode, experts Rosalind Hollingsworth, Eric Karikari-Boateng, Chris Chadwick, William Ampofo and Tiago Rocca speak live from the Influenzer Initiative’s special event at the Titanic Museum in September 2022. Discussing vaccine equity, sustainable investment in influenza vaccine production in lower- and middle-income countries, the potential for future mRNA vaccines and more, the panel speaks to the need for partnerships and collaboration.