The U.S. flu season has hit some states hard. California has already confirmed 202 influenza-related deaths--almost double the toll in the entire 2012-2013 flu season--and is investigating a further 41 cases. Now, though, there are signs the virus is letting up, with multiple influenza activity indicators in decline.
Consumers faced an array of choices going into the current flu season, with quadrivalent vaccines being sold alongside high-dosage varieties and vaccines produced without eggs. Fourth-quarter results suggest people have taken up the new options, with sales at AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi soaring.
Novartis is trying to make its meningitis B vaccine Bexsero widely available in the U.S., instead of just supplying it on an ad hoc basis to tackle outbreaks.
Last summer the United Kingdom set primary care physicians the ambitious target of vaccinating 75% of high-risk patients against influenza. The short notice and scale of the goal--which represents a 50% increase in one winter--caused consternation among physicians who said it would take a miracle to achieve. Now it appears no miracle occurred and the U.K. will miss its target.
Infecting healthy volunteers with influenza in a controlled environment will allow researchers to track each step of the immune response, potentially revealing answers to some fundamental questions limiting the effectiveness of vaccines.
The H7N9 bird flu virus is once again spreading across China, and with evidence of human-to-human transmission also mounting, the need for effective vaccines is growing. The U.S. National Institutes of Health is trialing a Sanofi vaccine, and a number of smaller companies are also developing H7N9 vaccines.
Strong demand for flu vaccines in Canada has left authorities scrambling for supplies this winter, but in general preventive vaccines have suffered less severe shortages than drugs in recent years. BIO argues this is evidence the current system for vaccines works and has asked the FDA to rethink its drug shortage plans.
The Connecticut-based biotech won approval for its flu vaccine last year but it faces competition from GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi and the other established giants of the market.
Reports the H1N1 flu virus is circulating in North America have prompted a surge in demand for vaccines in Canada. While health authorities typically welcome increased uptake of flu vaccines, the spike in demand has left parts of the country with dwindling stocks.
Fever is a common side effect of many vaccinations; an estimated one-third of people receiving Pfizer's Prevnar 13 develop a mild case. Flu vaccines also cause cases, prompting researchers to investigate a question--does giving the shots simultaneously raise the risk of fever? The resulting study suggests the answer is yes.