Aventis began to ship its influenza vaccine (Fluzone(R), Influenza Virus Vaccine) today, meeting the company's goal to provide Fluzone vaccine to customers to allow health-care providers to plan successful immunization programs for the upcoming influenza season.
These are the first shipments of influenza vaccine this year by any manufacturer directly to providers.
Aventis Pasteur, the vaccines business of Aventis, is one of the leading suppliers of influenza vaccine in the United States. "Aventis Pasteur is pleased our customers will receive influenza vaccine to allow health-care providers extra time to plan and schedule immunization programs," said Jim Robinson, vice president of industrial operations for Aventis Pasteur in the United States. "Our company has worked diligently to ensure the production and distribution of Fluzone vaccine will be completed to allow for the timely shipment of vaccine."
Aventis Pasteur originally informed customers they would receive vaccine shipments beginning in September. Earlier shipments, however, became possible due to a strong production year. The company estimates it will produce over 50 million doses of influenza vaccine for the 2004-05 influenza season depending on customer demand.
The 2004-05 influenza vaccine formulation contains the A/Fujian/411/2002 (H3N2)-like, A/New Caledonia/20/99 (H1N1)-like and B/Shanghai/361/2002-like strains. The three strains for the new influenza vaccine formulation were confirmed by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Center for Biologics Evaluation & Research, Vaccines Research & Related Biological Products Advisory Committee in March 2004. The FDA's decision corresponds with recommendations made by the World Health Organization in February. Influenza vaccine is reformulated each year to match the strain predicted to circulate in the coming season.
Groups that have been identified as being at risk for developing serious influenza-related complications include the elderly; pregnant women, and adults and children with chronic diseases, such as asthma and diabetes. Influenza vaccination is also recommended for those 50 to 64 years of age, household contacts of at-risk individuals, and health-care workers who care for at-risk patients.
For the first time, influenza immunization is now recommended for healthy children aged 6 through 23 months. These children have been found to be at increased risk for influenza-related hospitalizations. Children younger than 9 years of age receiving influenza vaccine for the first time require two doses, one month apart. The vaccine is also recommended for household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of all children younger than 24 months.
All other healthy individuals under age 50 and anyone who wishes to decrease their risk of influenza infection are also encouraged to seek vaccination.