The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has issued the European Union’s official recommendation for developing influenza vaccines for the 2019/2020 season.
The EMA recommended the following strains for trivalent vaccines:
- A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
- A/Kansas/14/2017 (H3N2)-like virus
- B/Colorado/06/2017-like virus (B/Victoria/2/87 lineage)
In addition, it noted that for quadrivalent vaccines with two influenza B viruses, a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus should be included.
The advice will see manufacturers begin developing vaccines for the autumn of this year, as it takes five to six months to prepare specific vaccines prior to each season.
The recommendations apply to manufacturers of both inactivated and live attenuated influenza vaccines. The EMA arrived at these particular virus strains in consultation with the WHO, which just launched its global influenza strategy for the next decade.
The influenza virus continuously mutates, necessitating a new vaccine to combat the spread of the virus – new vaccines are developed twice annually for the northern and southern hemispheres.
Every year, there are an estimated one billion cases of the influenza virus and between 290,000-650,000 deaths related to the virus.
As a result, pharmaceutical innovations in the space are still high in demand, which led to BioNTech signing a collaboration agreement with Pfizer worth a potential $425m (€378m) to develop a mRNA-based vaccine.
Beyond this, the search for a ‘universal flu vaccine’ is still on-going, with multiple companies involved in the race to develop the first commercially available treatment.