Sanofi pasteur, the vaccines business of the sanofi-aventis Group, began shipping influenza vaccine (Fluzone, Influenza Virus Vaccine) to the U.S. market for the 2006-2007 season.
The shipment represents the first of approximately 50 million doses planned for production this year.
The most consistent and reliable supplier of injectable influenza vaccine for many years, sanofi pasteur is expected to supply approximately half of the global influenza vaccines market. This shipment will help providers start to successfully implement their immunization plans for the upcoming influenza season.
As in past years, the company will use a split-delivery process so that all customers will receive at least a partial delivery of their orders by the end of September. Although this shipping process is more time consuming and costly for sanofi pasteur, the company has continued the process because it has been recognized as key to equitably distributing doses and facilitating the immunization of priority patients across the maximum number of providers.
Shipments will continue until December as the company produces 50 million doses of influenza vaccine for this season. It is important to remember that the influenza season lasts from October through April, with February typically being the period of most intense disease activity. Therefore, it is still valuable to obtain an influenza vaccination in December, January and beyond.
To keep pace with the nation's growing and changing immunization needs, sanofi pasteur has expanded its influenza vaccine production capability. In July 2005, construction began on a new influenza vaccine production facility in Swiftwater, Pennsylvania, that will more than double the company's U.S. capacity. The new plant is expected to come online for the 2008-2009 season.
Influenza immunization is now recommended for healthy children 6 through 59 months of age. 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 of age.
Other groups that have been identified as being at risk for developing serious influenza-related complications include the elderly 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.
All other healthy individuals under 50 years of age and anyone who wishes to decrease their risk of influenza infection are also encouraged to seek vaccination.
Fluzone vaccine is the only influenza vaccine licensed for populations 6 months and older. In 2004-2005, sanofi pasteur introduced a new Fluzone vaccine formulation (trade name: Fluzone, Influenza Virus Vaccine, No Preservative) that does not contain a preservative at any stage in the manufacturing process. It is the first FDA-licensed injectable influenza vaccine to be manufactured in this way.
The 2006-2007 influenza vaccine formulation contains the A/New Caledonia/20/99 (H1N1)-like virus; an A/Wisconsin/67/2005 (H3N2)-like virus (A/Wisconsin/67/2005 or A/Hiroshima/52/2005strains); and B/Malaysia/2506/2004- like virus (B/Malaysia/2506/2004 or B/Ohio/1/2005 strains). The three strains for the new influenza vaccine formulation were confirmed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee in March 2006 and correspond with recommendations made by the World Health Organization in February. Influenza vaccine is reformulated each year to match the strains predicted to circulate in the coming season.