It’s the time of the year for flu shots. I know I will be getting mine, as will my family. It got me thinking about the importance of vaccines in the prevention of epidemics or pandemics.
Everyone remembers the 2009 A/H1N1 pandemic. Based on CDC Estimates, from April 2009 to April 2010, between 274,000 hospitalizations and 12,470 deaths occurred in the United States alone due to influenza, predominantly H1N1.
This 2009 pandemic was aggravated by production delays of various forms that resulted in the reduced availability of vaccine - far below CDC forecasts. In their weekly press briefing on August 21, 2009 the CDC projected having 45-52 million doses available by mid-October,2009; the actual number was closer to 12.8 million as reported at the October 20, 2009 briefing. Availability lagged roughly one month behind projections: the November 20th briefing cited 54.1 million doses of vaccine (cumulative) available.
Vaccination remains the best method for mitigating the consequences of a flu epidemic, both in terms of efficacy and cost. In the best of circumstances studies have found that vaccination programs can reduce attack rates down to 1%-2% from 29%-50%. In all of the models the timing of the vaccination program is crucial.
Part of the issue facing pandemic response comes from delays associated with microbiological quality control tests required for product release. These tests are integral to ensure that the vaccine is safe for the public. A rapid test would enable the release of critical vaccines to the public weeks earlier than current practice. Cutting the test time with the use of automated rapid microbial detection for each of the sterility tests currently performed during vaccine manufacture can remove 3-4 weeks from the product manufacturing time with no impact on product quality or current manufacturing techniques. This savings can be generated by reducing the current 14-day sterility tests to 5 - 7 days or less.
We think there is a tremendous opportunity and are excited to be working the BARDA and the other companies to help improve our government's response to pandemics.
Don't forget to get your flu shot!
Rapid Micro Biosystems