Influenza vaccine supply secured for next three years

Media release Medicines

PHARMAC has secured the national supply of influenza vaccines for the next three years.

Today PHARMAC announced that GSK and Abbott Pharmaceuticals will be the suppliers of influenza vaccine from the 2014 influenza season, which usually begins in March.

GSK will provide initial supply with a guaranteed 250,000 doses of Fluarix. Abbott’s Influvac will provide the majority of doses. This year more than 1.2 million doses were distributed

PHARMAC’s Director of Operations, Sarah Fitt says it is important to have agreements in place now so that suppliers can have certainty over the vaccines they will need to provide.

 “The influenza vaccine has become an important part of New Zealand’s public health defences, so it is pleasing to be able once again to secure contracts for the next three seasons,” says Sarah Fitt.

“It’s also pleasing to have this supply while getting better value for the New Zealand taxpayer.”

Another benefit of Influvac is a slightly longer needle than the previously funded vaccine, and Fluarix.

“The new needle will be 25mm, compared to 16mm previously. This is not a huge difference, but the clinical advice we received is that this makes it easier to deliver the vaccine into the muscle, leading to reduced pain,” says Sarah Fitt.

PHARMAC had initially proposed to fund a smaller presentation of Influvac for children, but having received further clinical advice have decided just to fund Influvac for 2014. Both Influvac and Fluarix can be used to vaccinate children and syringes of both brands are marked so that vaccinators can provide the correct dose of vaccine to children.

Sarah Fitt says the influenza strains included for each of the 2014-2016 seasons are determined by the World Health Organisation. Details are at "Recommended composition of influenza virus vaccines for use in the 2014 southern hemisphere influenza season"(external link).

To ensure the vaccine meets the WHO specifications, Medsafe will need to approve the vaccine each year,” she adds.