The ABPI Vaccine Group is committed to advocating on behalf of the industry on all aspects of vaccination and the benefits it brings to the health of our nation.
The group, comprising of member companies: Abbvie, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Mylan, Pfizer Vaccines, and Takeda aims to work in partnership with the public health community throughout the four nations of the UK to encourage the continued and further success of the national immunisation programmes.
Our strategic priorities are to maintain and build on the success of the immunisation programme in England Advocate for a policy to review, recommend and procure vaccines that are based on sound principles of health technology assessment and recognise the particular characteristics of vaccines and the vaccine environment.
We also wish to maintain partnerships with the public health community to increase the uptake of vaccinations in each of the four nations amongst those who would most benefit, as set out in relevant national and international guidelines
If you would like to find contact the ABPI Vaccine Group, please email [email protected] or telephone +44 (0)20 8816 7245.
For all media enquiries, please email [email protected] or telephone +44 (0) 20 7747 1410 or +44 (0) 20 7747 1441.
Find out more about our advocate work around seasonal flu vaccinations:
Adverse Events should be reported. Reporting forms and information can be found here. Adverse events should also be reported to the appropriate pharmaceutical company.
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The National Influenza Centres are able to analyse and review all of the virus strains that are coming in from around the globe, and can advise the World Health Organization about which ones are most common and which are causing disease.
Each year the seasonal flu vaccine contains three different strains of the flu virus1A vaccine containing four different strains became available for the first time for the 2013-14 season 2.
The flu virus for inactivated vaccines is grown in hen’s eggs. After incubation the virus is harvested from the eggs, and then purified to get the live virus. Hundreds of millions of eggs are needed to produce enough flu vaccine for the season2. This can cause a delay depending on the availability of eggs for production.
The next step is to kill the virus, or inactivate it. After this the virus particle is split up and then the three strains are added together, and a buffer solution is added to make the final formulation of the vaccine.
The three strains need to be added together there can be a risk of delay, because the slowest growing strain will dictate how much vaccine you can make.2
Once there is an inactivated vaccine, it is tested in around a hundred healthy individuals. These tests ensure that the vaccine has a good safety profile, and that when vaccinated people produce enough antibodies to fight off the flu should infection occur. Vaccine production involves very rigorous quality assurance and quality control testing. These tests are carried out both by the manufacturer and external agencies.2 All of this means that 70% of the entire vaccine development time is spent on testing.3
The entire process of manufacturing an inactivated vaccine includes reviewing existing production capacity; ordering sufficient pathogen-free eggs to meet production needs; filling, packaging and labelling, prior to supply of vaccine.2
Manufacturing a new vaccine usually takes around two years but for flu vaccines the entire process is compressed into eight months. With such complex and time consuming steps in the process any delay is likely to have a knock on effect, which ultimately impacts on the timing of vaccine availability.123
Information about the flu virus, symptoms, complications and disease patterns can be found at the following sites.
Up-to-date guidelines & advice are available from the Department of Health.
Product information for flu vaccines & antivirals licensed for use in the UK can be accessed via the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC).
Every year the Department of Health (DH) monitors how many people in the recommended groups accept flu vaccination. These groups are 1:
Overall uptake at the end of the 2012/13 flu season 3:
The trivalent seasonal flu vaccine contains three different strains of the flu virus, two type A viruses and a type B virus. The quadrivalent seasonal flu vaccine contains four different strains of the flu virus, two type A and two type B virus. These vaccine strains change most years depending on which are the common wild virus strains that are circulating and causing disease globally in the preceding months.
The strains selected for the trivalent 2013/14 flu vaccines are:1
The strains selected for the quadrivalent 2013/14 flu vaccines are:1
*It is recommended that A/Texas/50/2012 is used as the A(H3N2) vaccine component because of antigenic changes in earlier A/Victoria/361/2011-like vaccine viruses (such as IVR-165) resulting from adaptation to propagation in eggs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) monitors circulating flu virus strains through the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System. The system involves the collection of samples from throats of individuals presenting at their GP surgery with influenza-like illness. These samples are sent to one of four National Influenza Centres in the UK where they are analysed and identified. 1
The centres pass on the information to the WHO. Information on which strains are most common and which are causing disease is collated by the six global WHO Collaborating Centres for influenza, allowing the WHO to recommend the vaccine strains for the upcoming season.1 The vaccine strains should then be a close match to the circulating virus strains, offering the best chance of protection from infection.
Date of preparation July 2013
Can the flu vaccine give someone flu?
No, flu vaccines cannot give you flu. Vaccines given by injection contain killed (inactivated) viruses and therefore cannot cause flu.1 Vaccine given by nasal spray contains live virus that has been weakened (attenuated) so that it provokes a full immune response in the body but does not cause flu to develop1.
Common undesirable effects of vaccination such as aching muscles, a fever and headache1 can feel like flu, which is why some people believe the vaccine has made them ill. Importantly these unwanted effects are usually short-lived.1 Also it can take up to two weeks following vaccination for an adequate antibody response to occur.1
It is possible to become infected with a virus that is currently circulating either just before or during the first couple of weeks following vaccination, giving the appearance that the vaccine has caused the infection.
Does the flu vaccine work?
Yes. Every year scientists develop vaccines based on the strain of flu in circulation. The vast majority of times the match is successful and the jab will protect you from the type of flu strain that is circulating. Current flu vaccines give around 59% protection in adults against infection with influenza virus strains 1, with higher protection when the strains are well matched with those in the vaccine, and according to the age and clinical conditions of individuals.2 Reassuringly, vaccination has been shown to be 50% to 60% effective in preventing hospitalisation and 80% effective in preventing death amongst elderly people.1,3
Aren't the side effects of the vaccine worse than the disease?
No. Unlike the common cold, flu can be debilitating even in young, fit and healthy people. The infection causes a range of unpleasant symptoms including a high fever (over 38°C),4 aching muscles, chills, headache, sore throat and extreme tiredness.1,3,4 Most people are unable to carry out basic daily tasks and will probably have to go to bed. These symptoms can last for a few days and some people may have a lingering weak feeling or even depression for several weeks.3
In rare cases people with flu can develop bronchitis4 as the flu virus damages their windpipe and lungs.3,5 Flu can also lead to pneumonia, usually due to bacteria which take advantage of the weakened state of the lungs during a flu infection.1 Both pneumonia and bronchitis can be serious and life-threatening, these individuals may require hospitalisation.
In contrast the most common undesirable effects of vaccination are reactions such as swelling or redness at the injection site.3,4 Some people (between 1% and 10%)6 may complain of low grade fever (37°C to 38°C), tiredness, aching joints & muscles and generally feeling unwell.3,4,6 These symptoms usually disappear within one to two days without any need for treatment 4,6 and are unlikely to interfere with routine daily activities.
Do younger, healthy people get flu or is it only the sick or elderly?
Yes, younger, healthy people do get flu; in fact most cases of flu occur in adults aged 15-64 years.7 For most people it is an unpleasant illness lasting around a week. However, for those with certain chronic illnesses, those who are elderly or those who are pregnant, flu can be serious.
Also many younger people in the risk groups, for example those with well-controlled diabetes or asthma, do not consider themselves to be at unhealthy. However they are at a higher risk of complications from flu than someone the same age without the risk factor.
Is it dangerous to have the flu jab whilst you are pregnant?
No. The Department of Health advises that pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy should be offered inactivated flu vaccine.1 This is standard medical practice in many industrialised countries.8
There is no evidence that the flu vaccine will harm a pregnant women or her unborn baby if she is vaccinated at any stage of pregnancy.2,8 Vaccinating during pregnancy also passes on some protection against flu to the new-born baby in the first few months of their life.1
However catching flu when pregnant increases a woman’s risk of becoming very ill as well as the risk of premature birth and miscarriage.8
Can antiviral drugs be used instead of vaccination to prevent flu?
No. Antivirals are used to treat the symptoms of flu once an individual has been infected.9 They are not designed to prevent infection and therefore cannot replace vaccination. The best way to protect yourself from flu is through vaccination.