In September the UKHSA announced an agreed deal for “millions of life-saving vaccines” has been signed with CSL Seqirus. The advance purchase agreement (APA) ensures that CSL Seqirus is “on standby” to produce over 100 million influenza vaccines if an influenza pandemic is declared. The vaccines would be produced at an existing manufacturing plant in Liverpool.  

Another pandemic? 

UKHSA states that pandemic influenza differs from seasonal influenza and avian influenza. If a new strain become global, transmitting from person to person, WHO could categorise it as the cause of a pandemic. Historically, these events are “highly unpredictable”, from timing to severity. In the past 100 years there have been 4 influenza pandemics: 1918, 1957, 1968, and 2009. The first of these caused over 50 million deaths worldwide. Pandemic influenza remains a “major health security concern”.  

The UK prepares 

UKHSA states that similar agreements have been arranged in the past, but this is the first time that the manufacturing process will be based in the UK, which gives “better security of access” should global demand outweigh supply. The vaccines will target the specific flu strain identified and declared to be a pandemic by WHO.  

Professor Dame Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of UKHSA, is learning from “past pandemic events”, such as COVID-19, that “access to effective vaccines is vital” to save lives and minimise disruptions.  

“This agreement represents a major step forward in our preparedness against future influenza pandemics.”  

She also believes that basing the manufacturing of these vaccines in the UK “gives us speedier and more secure access”, which will facilitate a faster rollout. Maria Caulfield, Vaccines Minister, commented that the deal puts the UK “on the front foot” if an influenza pandemic should arise.  

“It will ensure vaccines are manufactured in the UK – enabling us to get jabs into arms fast regardless of global demand and save thousands of lives.”  

Marc Lacey, Global Executive Director at CSL Seqirus, described his organisation as a “global leader in pandemic influenza preparedness”. He’s “pleased” by this partnership. 

“This agreement will help to ensure the UK maintains robust preparedness and rapid response capabilities for this potential future threat.”  

How prepared is your country for a potential influenza pandemic? Will this partnership be sufficient and, should a pandemic rear its head, will it be enacted adequately? For more pandemic insights don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletters.