The EC has secured preventative zoonotic avian influenza vaccine

13 June 2024 | Muriel Cozier

The risk of infection from avian influenza is low for the general population.

Aiming to reduce the risk of an outbreak of avian influenza in the population, the European Commission has signed a joint procurement framework contract with CSL Seqirus UK for the supply of up to 665,000 pre-pandemic doses of the zoonotic influenza vaccine. The vaccine is intended for people who are most exposed to potential transfer of avian influenza from birds or animals, such as poultry farmers and vets.

Fifteen countries are participating in the voluntary procurement, which allows each country to order vaccines depending on national need. The four-year contract has an option for a further 40 million doses. CSL Seqirus UK has an EU-wide modified marketing authorisation for the vaccine, which is the only preventative zoonotic avian influenza vaccine currently authorised in the EU.

Head of global medical strategy at CSL Seqirus, Raja Rajaram, said: ‘While the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control assess the risk of infection from avian influenza to be low for the general population, it considers people with activities that expose them to infected animals or a contaminated environment a low-medium risk. This agreement will help in Europe’s resolve to maintain robust preparedness and rapid response capabilities for this potential threat.’

The vaccines are being manufactured at CSL Seqirus’ sites in the Netherlands and the UK. The UK site, in Liverpool, uses a scalable method of production and is one of the largest sites in Europe to manufacture seasonal influenza vaccines.

A scientific report released in April 2024, published in the EFSA Journal, said that the continued spread of avian influenza virus in the EU and beyond was likely driven by farmed fur animals, which are highly susceptible to influenza viruses. Although mammal-to-mammal transmission had not been confirmed, wild animals could act as bridge hosts between wild birds, domestic animals and humans. Pets that live in households and have access to the outdoors, such as cats, can also be a potential vehicle for transmission.

The report calls for authorities from different fields to work together with a “One Health” perspective to limit exposure of mammals, including humans, to avian influenza viruses.

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