Better CRAFTING flu shots dropped to issue with 1940s technology, according to CSL Ltd, which said a new method of vaccine production might offer better protection against a virus that killed nearly 200 American children last season.
Flucelvax, an immunization produced by the Seqirus CSL unit with cell-based technology, is 36.2% more effective in preventing flu-like diseases last winter than conventional shots made using chicken eggs, the Melbourne-based company said in a study released Friday then.
Vaccination is recognized as the best way to protect against respiratory diseases, which kill as many as 650,000 people each year. However, shot effectiveness varies from year to year, depending on the proximity of the match between the viruses circulating in the season and vaccines, which are usually reformulated every year. While eggs have been used to grow flu viruses to make vaccines for decades, scientists have found that once in eggs, flu tends to experience adaptive changes that make it more suitable for chickens, not humans. Strengthening vaccine viruses in mammalian cell cultures aims to avoid this problem.
"This is real progress," Paul Perreault, CSL's chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview. "Cell-based technology shows effectiveness. This tends to provide a better match and will greatly help confidence for consumers to get out and get vaccinated. "
Better protection prospects come at a higher cost. Seqirus, which is the world's largest producer of cell-based influenza vaccines, said Flucelvax has a price list of US $ 20.47 (RM85.77) for a standard dose of 0.5 ml – a little more than egg-based choices such as Fluzone, Fluarix, and FluLaval, whose prices range from US $ 15 to US $ 17, according to Bloomberg data. The Paris-based, egg-free alternative approach from Sanofi, called Flublok, uses recombinant proteins to genetically fit the prevailing strain.
‘A little premium '
"There is a little premium on cell-based, and it should be if it's more effective," Perreault said.
Seqirus made 21 million doses using technology during the 2017-2018 season at a factory in Holly Springs, North Carolina. A process improvement program approved recently by the US Food and Drug Administration will enable it to increase supply and respond more quickly if there is a flu pandemic or lack of vaccines.
"With an egg-based vaccine, you need to order more eggs and need more chicken," Perreault said. "But cells can be produced immediately."
The company collected electronic medical records from 92,192 people who received cell-based vaccines and 1,255,983 people who received egg-based vaccines during the last influenza season between 1 August 2017 and 31 March 2018. The sample population included US patients over the age of four who received good forms of vaccine in primary care.
The North American flu season last summer 2017-2018, where the H3N2 strain dominated, was very bad, causing around 900,000 hospitalizations, including 185 child deaths, in the US alone.
Last season's kicks reduced a person's overall risk of having to seek medical treatment at a doctor's office for 40% of flu-like illnesses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said this month. The effectiveness of the H3N2 strain is 25%.
Changes adapted to eggs in the viruses used in vaccines may have contributed. The production method was discovered by Nobel Prize winner Frank Macfarlane Burnet in Melbourne in the 1940s and has been routinely used by vaccine makers ever since. – Bloomberg