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Nursing News - More Effective Flu Vaccine

Posted on 12/09/2018 by

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Over-65s to be given more effective flu vaccine - 

Public Health England says newly licensed drug FluAd will save 30,000 GP consultations and prevent 700 hospital deaths.

A flu vaccine that was licensed in Italy 20 years ago is to be used for the first time in the UK this winter in a bid to cut the death toll among older people from the infectious disease.

Public Health England says the vaccine, only now available in England, could reduce GP consultations by 30,000, hospital visits by more than 2,000 and prevent more than 700 hospital deaths. It is an adjuvanted vaccine, which will boost the immune system of the over-65 age group and give them better protection than in the past.

Last year flu took a big toll, particularly of older people. “Each year there are on average around 8,000 deaths from flu but last year there were about 15,000, significantly more than we usually see,” said Prof Paul Cosford, PHE’s medical director.

The vaccine, which usually combats the three main circulating strains of flu as identified by the World Health Organization, “was not as effective as we would have liked it to be against H3N3 [dubbed Aussie flu because it first caused problems last year in Australia]”.

In older people, the vaccine was thought to have been only about 30% effective. The adjuvanted vaccine “probably adds 20% to the effectiveness figure” said Cosford.

Only the over-65s will get the adjuvanted vaccine, which contains three flu strains. Younger people and others who are vulnerable will get a new quadrivalent vaccine. There is no adjuvanted vaccine on the market at the moment which will protect against four strains of flu.

The adjuvanted vaccine is called FluAd and is marketed by Seqirus, a company specialising in influenza that bought it from Novartis. The vaccine, first licensed in 1997, has been in use in Italy and Spain for many years.

“Since purchasing the Novartis influenza vaccine business in 2015, we’ve made it a priority to expand access to FluAd globally. We were granted a license for the vaccine from the MHRA [the UK’s regulatory body for medicines] last year and are pleased to now be able to make it available to older adults in the UK given the increased risks posed by influenza in this age group,” said Sharon McHale of the company.

Dr Richard Pebody, head of flu for PHE, said they could not use the vaccine until the company got a UK licence, which it did last year.

“Since we launched the seasonal flu vaccination programme in 2000, the best clinical guidance has been used to inform the vaccines issued,” he said. “We hope the adjuvanted vaccine will show improved effectiveness in elderly people and will help to prevent deaths and ease the burden on health services from flu.”

All NHS staff will be urged to get vaccinated this year to protect themselves and their patients. Some NHS staff choose not to get the flu vaccine because they wrongly believe it could make them ill, according to Prof Jane Cummings, chief nurse for England. She said some “myths” persist around the vaccine.

Health officials hope to achieve “near universal” coverage of frontline staff this year to help protect patients, after only about two-thirds (68.7%) received the flu jab last winter.

Source: TheGuardian