Chiron Corporation announced that president and chief executive officer Howard Pien will appear before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging in Washington, D.C., today in a hearing titled, "Combating the Flu: Keeping Seniors Alive."
Mr. Pien will speak on the value of influenza vaccine in protecting health, the importance of raising awareness of the benefits of vaccination, and the need to prepare for an influenza pandemic.
Mr. Pien will also reiterate Chiron's expectation, as stated in the company's August 26, 2004, press release, that it will supply between 46 million and 48 million Fluvirin(R) influenza virus vaccine doses to the U.S. market for the 2004-2005 influenza season, beginning in early October. The planned late-season delivery of 2 million Fluvirin doses for a national stockpile held by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), not included in the totals above, remains on schedule as well. Since its August announcement, Chiron has worked closely with government agencies to keep them informed of its retesting process. The results of the confirmatory testing to date are consistent with the company's shipping expectations. Following compilation and formal sign-off of its test data, Chiron expects to complete its discussions with regulatory authorities and proceed with releasing Fluvirin to the U.S. market in early October.
A Committee announcement of today's hearing states that the CDC estimates that 6 of every 10 seniors received a flu shot last year, and that federal health officials have established a goal of vaccinating at least 90 percent of seniors by 2010. The hearing coincides with National Adult Immunization Awareness Week, which runs from September 26 through October 2.
In submitted testimony to the Committee, Mr. Pien stated, "Chiron has invested heavily in ensuring that the United States has a supply of influenza vaccine in interpandemic years, which will contribute to protecting the elderly against morbidity and mortality due to the disease. Chiron is committed to the U.S. influenza market and working with government to protect the population, as it continues to age, against influenza as well as to position the United States for preparedness for a global influenza pandemic."
As October and November are the primary months when influenza vaccine is given, the impact of Chiron's shipment delay on the 2004-2005 influenza vaccination season should be minimal. Furthermore, as in past years, the CDC urges continuation of influenza vaccination into December and beyond, given vaccine availability.
To learn more about the hearing, view it via webcast, or read the testimony, please visit http://aging.senate.gov. A live audiocast of the hearing may also be available on the C-SPAN website at http://www.capitolhearings.org. Mr. Pien's testimony will follow that of witnesses representing the CDC and the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease, among others.
According to the CDC, about 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts influenza each year. Vaccination not only decreases the risk of illness for the vaccine recipient but also helps prevent the spread of the influenza virus and limits its role in the potential development of life-threatening complications. CDC statistics show that, in an average year in the United States, influenza causes more than 200,000 hospitalizations and kills 36,000 people, primarily in ages 65 and older.
Influenza, a contagious disease caused by the influenza virus, affects the respiratory tract, often resulting in symptoms in the nose, throat and lungs, as well as fever, headache, tiredness and body aches. It can also lead to complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or sinus and ear infections or exacerbate chronic conditions.
Influenza vaccination provides protection from influenza within about two weeks of administration and may last for as long as a year. The vaccine protects 70 to 90 percent of vaccinated people from contracting influenza, and vaccinated people who do contract influenza generally develop milder cases than unvaccinated people. Influenza vaccines, the majority of which are made from inactivated (killed) influenza strains, are updated each year to address changes in the viruses. People who are allergic to eggs, who have had a severe reaction to an influenza shot in the past, or who have previously developed Guillain-Barre syndrome in the six weeks after receiving an influenza vaccination should consult their doctors before receiving influenza vaccination.