The U.S. government is laying plans to harness its buying power and applied research capabilities to pull influenza vaccine development and manufacturing into the 21st century. The goals are to enhance protection against seasonal flu, and in the process create infrastructure that could provide rapid, effective responses to pandemic strains.
An Executive Order (EO) on modernizing influenza vaccines signed by President Donald Trump on September 19, and a Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) report released with it, outline the public health, national security and economic imperatives to change the way flu vaccines are manufactured.
Based on existing vaccine manufacturing capabilities, a virulent influenza pandemic could affect millions of Americans and “high rates of illness, missed work, hospitalizations, and deaths” could disrupt the defense and security functions and inflict trillions of dollars in costs on the U.S. economy, the CEA concluded.
“We know of no other virus that spreads as quickly and causes as much death as a pandemic influenza virus,” Rick Bright, HHS deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response and director of the Biomedical Advances Research and Development Authority (BARDA), told BioCentury.
Bright, the EO and the CEA report all point to the same problem: over-reliance on a 70 year-old manufacturing process that incubates flu viruses in chicken eggs and that cannot produce vaccines quickly enough to blunt a pandemic.
“We know of no other virus that spreads as quickly and causes as much death as a pandemic influenza virus.”
Over the last decade investments by the U.S. government, principally through BARDA, have helped industry develop better, faster seasonal flu vaccine manufacturing technologies. But these technologies, cell-based and recombinant vaccines, account for