Vaccine solutions to expand protection against a global threat
Public health leaders agree that the best way to control the spread of influenza is through vaccines. Each year, seasonal influenza causes 250,000 to 500,000 deaths and up to 5 million cases of severe illness. In today’s interconnected world, the virus has the potential to cause up to 60 million deaths, mostly in the developing world, if a highly virulent pandemic strain were to emerge. But, even today, influenza morbidity is overlooked in some regions. The development of new vaccines, increased vaccine production, and regionally appropriate strategies for vaccine use are essential to being able to meet the global population’s needs during seasonal and pandemic outbreaks.
PATH is doing its part in the global fight against influenza by implementing a multifaceted strategy to expand influenza vaccine solutions that will be optimal for the developing world. We are accelerating the development of new influenza vaccines that can be accessible and affordable for people in low-resource countries in influenza outbreaks. We are also working to gain a better understanding of influenza disease patterns in tropical, developing countries and to determine if current vaccines can be appropriate solutions for these regions. Finally, we are helping emerging-country manufacturers produce influenza vaccines for pandemic preparedness.
Innovation in influenza vaccine development
The rapid development, production, and distribution of influenza vaccines could potentially save millions of lives during a pandemic, yet current influenza vaccines are difficult to produce quickly and in large quantities. Alternative vaccine strategies are needed that could produce much greater quantities of vaccine in real time at a price that is affordable to the global population. The emergence of the 2009 influenza A(H1N1) pandemic further underscores the importance of the ability to quickly and affordably manufacture pandemic influenza vaccines for mass distribution.
To expand the options for vaccine production in both pandemic and seasonal outbreaks, PATH is pursuing live attenuated (egg-based or cell-based) and recombinant technologies to express virus-like particles. This could provide better real-time access and be produced more affordably, thereby increasing access for people living in low- and moderate-income countries. PATH is also exploring new adjuvants, vaccine ingredients that help boost the immune response, potentially allowing vaccine supplies to stretch further. Other work includes providing support for research on influenza vaccines that can provide coverage across strains, although these technologies are in the early stages of development.
In addition, PATH’s Technology Solutions Global Program is working to improve the stability of influenza vaccines. See the press release.
Influenza surveillance and vaccine effectiveness in tropical regions
Effective seasonal influenza vaccines have been available for decades, but they have not been well-studied or used broadly in tropical developing countries. PATH and our partners are conducting influenza surveillance and an influenza vaccine effectiveness trial in Senegal to answer questions about the disease burden of influenza in tropical Africa and the impact of seasonal influenza vaccines in this setting. In collaboration with and funded by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this Phase 4, post-licensure study is the largest influenza vaccine trial in children undertaken in Africa to date.
We are primarily monitoring the effectiveness of influenza vaccine among vaccinated children, but also hope to determine if vaccinating children, the suspected main transmitters of influenza, substantially reduces disease in the rest of the community. As part of this effort, we are conducting surveillance of respiratory disease in the community to measure rates of influenza caused by circulating strains. Ultimately, the aim is for the data generated by this study to help public health officials decide how to most appropriately use influenza vaccine in Senegal and other similar countries in tropical Africa.
Support for emerging-country vaccine manufacturers
With vaccine development resources mostly concentrated in the industrialized world, low-income countries face great challenges in protecting their populations in a pandemic. They are often unable to afford or access critical vaccines that can help them prevent the spread of disease within their own communities, as well as to the rest of the world. With a gap of several billion courses between today’s influenza vaccine production capacity and what is needed to protect the global population in a pandemic, global health leaders recognize that the participation of many vaccine suppliers worldwide is vital to meeting pandemic demand. Emerging-country vaccine manufacturers will play an important role to this end and are expanding their efforts to produce high-quality, lifesaving influenza vaccines at lower cost.
Vietnam is one such country with the potential to supply safe and effective influenza vaccines that can be affordable and accessible for the global population in a future pandemic. With a US$7.9 million award from the US Department of Health and Human Services, PATH is helping to enhance sustainable influenza vaccine production in Vietnam. Ultimately, the aim is to advance locally produced influenza vaccine candidates through clinical evaluation. This project is an important step toward increasing local and regional vaccine supplies and improving real-time response in an influenza pandemic.
- Advancing New Technologies Against a Global Threat fact sheet
- Expanding Vaccine Solutions Against Influenza fact sheet
- Increasing Vaccine Supply to Protect Against Influenza fact sheet
- Influenza Strategies for Broad Global Access report
- PATH Vaccine Resource Library: Influenza
- Understanding Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness in Senegal fact sheet
- World Health Organization’s Global Pandemic Influenza Action Plan to Increase Vaccine Supply web page