Flu News Day, 3/22/2023
March 22nd’s Flu News Day features updates on the United States’ preparations for bird flu and more. Read here to catch up on the latest in influenza news and funding.
Vaccine Makers Are Preparing for Bird Flu
Regardless of all the recent news surrounding avian influenza strain H5N1 outbreaks, most experts emphasize that while they are worried about future pandemics related to this virus, they are not overly worried about this specific set of outbreaks. Still, vaccine producers are remaining vigilant towards avian influenza outbreaks and are maintaining diverse routes for influenza vaccine production for when, not if, the next influenza pandemic emerges. These routes include the typical chicken egg-based vaccines, which are at slight risk of being compromised due to avian influenza targeting chickens. However, other paths include lab-grown vaccines and mRNA vaccines, which includes the University of Pennsylvania’s recent 20-subtype vaccine. To learn more about the ways that US vaccine producers are preparing for avian influenza outbreak, read the flu article here.
U.S. Considers Vaccinating Chickens as Bird Flu Kills Millions of Them
Even with increasing numbers of people being monitored for exposure to H5N1 avian influenza in the US, the largest threat that the virus poses is to the poultry industry. As a security measure to protect the more than nine billion chickens in farms across the country, the government is considering its first ever vaccination campaign for domestic birds against avian influenza. Although several other countries such as China and Vietnam have established vaccination campaigns, the logistical difficulties of vaccinating the entire poultry industry as well as concerns over how vaccination would impact poultry exports have prevented conversations around a campaign until recently. With soaring prices in eggs, partly driven by outbreaks, experts on avian influenza and the poultry industry are weighing the costs and benefits of a vaccination campaign. Learn more about this potential campaign here.
Seasonal trends in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and mortality in the United States and Europe
In recent weeks, vaccine experts have begun to weigh options for future COVID-19 vaccination strategies. These include shifting to an annual vaccination schedule, and potentially combining influenza and COVID-19 vaccination efforts to maximize coverage. Contributing to these conversations is a recent study from Weimken et al. which shows distinct seasonality in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and mortality across 28 countries. These rates are highest between November and February, meaning that there is overlap with the seasonality of influenza which shows an uptick of cases between January and March. The study acknowledges that atypical outbreaks for COVID-19 and influenza have occurred outside of the typical winter seasonality. However, these findings are key to determining ideal vaccination timelines for booster doses as well as a timeline for an annual COVID-19 vaccine. Read the full study here.
Vaccination and voting patterns in the United States: analysis of COVID-19 and flu surveys from 2010 to 2022
A new study from Ronn et al. verifies that there is a correlation between high voting shares for the democratic party in the US and vaccination coverage for both COVID-19 and influenza vaccines. This report comes three years after the initial COVID-19 lockdown and more than two years after the initial vaccination campaigns, which were both highly politicized. By analyzing voting shares from the 2020 presidential election as well as surveillance data for both COVID-19 and influenza vaccine campaigns, the study showed that COVID-19 vaccination coverage could increase on average by as much as 8.6% for every 10% increase in democratic voting share. While less than the influence of voting share on COVID-19 vaccination, influenza vaccination coverage was found to increase by an average of 3.1% for every 10% increase in democratic voting share. The results from this study could help inform national initiatives to address gaps in vaccination. Read the full study here.
The Flu Vaccine Forum
On March 16th, the Influenzer Initiative hosted a live-streamed webinar!
A “game-changing” Universal Influenza Vaccine (UIV) candidate arrives. What’s next? In this installment of the Flu Vaccine Forum webinar series, experts Dr. Diane Post (Chief, Viral Respiratory Diseases Section, DMID/NIAID/NIH), Dr. Scott Hensley (Professor of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of Penn-CEIRR), and Dr. Norman Baylor (Trustee, Sabin Vaccine Institute and Former Director of FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review) discussed the roadblocks that a promising preclinical candidate faces on its long journey to the marketplace and explore strategies for overcoming them.
Livestreamed on YouTube, the webinar features a lively discussion and a question-and-answer session.