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International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations



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  • Vaccines represent an essential component of public health policy around the world.
  • Vaccines and antivirals are crucial tools in the fight against seasonal and pandemic influenza.
  • The research-based pharmaceutical industry has an essential role to play when called on by the public health authorities, as was highlighted during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
  • R&D industry is committed to researching and developing new vaccine technologies and will continue to play an active role in the global health policy and vaccine arena.

Background

Influenza occurs annually, causing significant amounts of disease and deaths, particularly in the elderly, young children and those with certain chronic conditions. Although seasonal influenza epidemics vary considerably, estimates suggest that epidemics of seasonal influenza result in 3-5 million cases of severe illness and between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths each year around the world. (WHO Factsheet No. 211, Influenza (Seasonal), April 2009).

Each year in September and February respectively, the WHO Global Influenza Program announces the influenza strains for production of the next seasonal vaccines. The disease season generally begins in May–June in the southern hemisphere and in November–December in the northern hemisphere. The identification of strains is based on surveillance data from the worldwide network of national influenza centers and WHO collaborating centers. Current seasonal influenza vaccines contain antigens from two A virus subtypes, H3N2 and H1N1, and one type B virus.

Influenza vaccines have been providing good levels of protection for more than 50 years. Influenza vaccine production is highly complex and involves a large number of steps. Despite a high level of complexity in influenza vaccine manufacturing, during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic the first batches of vaccine became available within 3 months after the start of the process. This could only be achieved by significant investments in pandemic vaccine development and production capacity in the years preceding the pandemic.

As a result of the serious consequences of influenza infection, WHO and many national health authorities recommend annual vaccination for a range of at risk groups. However, despite these guidelines and data highlighting the economic benefits of influenza vaccination, seasonal immunization rates remain very low in many countries.  To increase seasonal vaccine uptake and protect at-risk groups from the serious effects of influenza infections, national authorities should drive effective implementation of immunization recommendations around the world. Meeting WHO’s recommendations on seasonal influenza vaccination coverage will lead to: a reduction in illness and death and a reduction in healthcare costs associated with hospitalization of severe cases.

Influenza, commonly referred to as flu, is an infectious disease caused by RNA viruses and affects both humans and animals. The most common symptoms of the disease are chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness/fatigue and general discomfort. Although it is often confused with other influenza-like illnesses, especially the common cold, influenza is a more sever disease than the common cold and is caused by a different type of virus. Influenza occurs in epidemics of variable severity in winter (seasonal influenza) and can occur in occasional major pandemic outbreaks (pandemic influenza). Influenza can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent influenza is by getting influenza vaccination each year.

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