August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) in the US—an annual observance of the importance of vaccines in preventing serious illness, complications, and death from infectious diseases.
NIAM comes at an opportune time, as annual influenza vaccinations will begin to be available in the coming weeks. Everyone aged six months and older is eligible to receive a seasonal influenza vaccine in the US, and doing so is recommended to prevent complications, hospitalisations, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, and death from the influenza virus. During the 2022–2023 influenza season, the vaccine was responsible for averting 36.25% of diagnosed incident cases of seasonal influenza in the US.
NIAM is supported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the FDA, the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC), and the American Association of Immunologists (AAI), along with other healthcare and government agencies. NIAM is intended to educate individuals on the importance of staying up to date with routine vaccinations.
In observance of NIAM, the CDC is encouraging the use of its free resources available for healthcare professionals, parents, and patients. Healthcare professionals can participate in immunisation education and training courses, prepare immunisation schedules for parents and patients, and utilise mobile applications to help make vaccine recommendations. Parents and patients can take a quiz to check their knowledge of the routine vaccinations that are needed.
Although NIAM is an annual observance in the US, the message remains relevant for people around the world. GlobalData epidemiologists have found that seasonal influenza vaccination rates are relatively low across all of the seven major pharmaceutical markets (7MM) (US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Japan). In the 2022–2023 influenza season, 37% of adults aged 18–64 years were vaccinated against seasonal influenza in the US, compared to 24% in the UK, 18% in Japan, 14% in both Italy and Spain and 11% in both Germany and France. Key opinion leaders (KOLS) in the 7MM who were interviewed by GlobalData agree that many people who are eligible to receive the seasonal influenza vaccine fail to do so and run the risk of developing serious complications. Furthermore, increasing vaccine uptake will require a joint effort from governments, industry leaders, and physicians to increase the awareness and benefits of annual immunisation.
A number of innovative vaccines are in development, which could help to boost vaccination rates over time if approved. In particular, combination vaccines have the potential to improve vaccine uptake, predominantly due to the decreased number of injections needed to induce sufficient immunity against multiple respiratory illnesses. Novavax’s Covid-influenza combination vaccine is currently in Phase II clinical trials. The Covid-influenza vaccine combines Novavax’s quadrivalent recombinant haemagglutinin (HA) nanoparticle influenza vaccine, NanoFlu, with its recombinant spike nanoparticle Covid-19 vaccine, Nuvaxovid (NVX-CoV2373), and a saponin-based Matrix-M adjuvant. Individually, NanoFlu has completed Phase III testing and Nuvaxovid is authorised for emergency use in the US and EU. Topline results from the Phase II study of the Covid-influenza combination vaccine indicate that the vaccine candidate is safe, well tolerated, and exhibits a strong immune response comparable to that of both marketed influenza vaccines (Fluad and Fluzone HD) and Novavax’s Nuvaxovid.
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Other combination vaccines in the current pipeline are in Phase I trials. Moderna’s pipeline includes a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)-influenza combination vaccine (mRNA-1045), a Covid-influenza combination vaccine (mRNA-1073), and a Covid-RSV-influenza combination vaccine (mRNA-1230). Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-influenza combination vaccine is also in Phase I clinical trials. This vaccine was the recipient of a Fast Track Designation from the FDA.
The release of new vaccines may positively impact public sentiment regarding the benefits of immunisation. This can act as a catalyst for the public to actively seek routine vaccinations, which would contribute to NIAM’s objective in the US, as well as immunisation awareness around the world.