GSK inks flu shot supply deal with Canada just one week after kicking off US shipments

After two years of record flu shot demand fueled in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, GSK is looking at another busy season this fall. Now, it's agreed to furnish Canada with millions of doses of pandemic and seasonal flu vaccines through March 2026, the latest move in a 20-year influenza partnership with the country.

GSK didn’t lay out the financial terms of the deal, which will see the British big pharma supply as many as 80 million doses of the adjuvanted pandemic flu vaccine Arepanrix, plus at least four million yearly doses of the seasonal prophylactic Flulaval Tetra.

GSK plans to supply both vaccines from its 230,000-square-foot facility in Sainte-Foy, Quebec.

Arepanrix contains a monovalent, inactivated strain of the influenza virus antigen, plus GSK’s pandemic adjuvant system. Clinical studies have shown the adjuvated formulation spurred a satisfactory immune response while leveraging less antigen versus a non-adjuvated shot, GSK said. Those dynamics could help boost supply during a pandemic, the company added.

“COVID-19 has shown the world the importance of immunization and pandemic preparedness,” Roger Connor, president of GSK vaccines, said in a statement. “This agreement reserves future production and delivery of pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccines allowing for a rapid response to help protect Canadians.”

GSK and its influenza rivals Sanofi and Seqirus have been raking in vaccine revenue lately, even as the COVID-19 pandemic has remained top of mind for most.

Back in 2020, shortly before the emergency authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S., flu shot makers delivered a record 194 million doses to the U.S. The upsized supply came as public health experts warned against a potential overlap between flu and COVID-19, sending demand for flu shots skyrocketing. That year, GSK’s influenza revenues clocked in at £733 million, up 35% year over year.

Gearing up for the 2021 season, flu shot makers once again said they’d match the historic delivery figures reported in 2020. With the expectation to ship more than 190 million doses across companies for the 2021 season, “supply likely won’t be an issue,” Leonard Friedland, M.D., GSK’s vice president and director of scientific affairs and public health, told Fierce Pharma last year.

The company’s roster of influenza shots generated £679 in 2021, down 7%, which the company blamed on “unfavorable” return and rebate trends. Those losses were partially offset by higher volumes in the U.S. and strong demand in the southern hemisphere, GSK noted.

Still, while many Americans were getting themselves and their children vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, many lagged on routine shots for other diseases like flu, pneumococcal pneumonia and HPV.

Back in February, a GSK-backed claims analysis by Avalere Health found adults and adolescents skipped more than 37 million doses of recommended vaccines between January 2020 and July 2021.

Elsewhere, GSK is gearing up for another busy flu season in the U.S. Earlier this month, the company said it had started shipping the first of more than 50 million doses of its quadrivalent shots to U.S. healthcare providers and pharmacies for the upcoming season.