As vaccine makers gear up for a busy season, CSL Seqirus exec says influenza is poised for a return

As summer nears an end and fall looms, flu season is waiting right around the corner. While much of the public remains focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, influenza remains a threat, and top vaccine players are gearing up to help fight it.

While there was “very, very low flu activity" in recent years thanks to COVID-19 mitigation measures, the trends are likely to change this year, Dave Ross, vice president of North America commercial operations at CSL Seqirus, said in a recent interview.

"People are back to traveling,” Ross said. “Masks are off, [and] people are back in the office. It’s not a matter of if influenza comes back. It’s just a matter of when and how severe.”

Influenza is circulating in the Southern Hemisphere at high levels, Ross said. The Southern Hemisphere is “usually a bellwether” to determine what level of flu activity will follow in the Northern Hemisphere, the CSL Seqirus exec noted.

CSL Seqirus is on track to deliver over 55 million doses to U.S. healthcare providers, Ross said. GSK is also preparing for the season with more than 50 million doses.

For its part,  Sanofi expects a record year of influenza vaccine sales thanks to its "strategy to focus on high-value vaccines," vaccine head Thomas Triomphe said during a recent conference call.

Sanofi markets a high-dose Fluzone vaccine for people 65 and older, and it has a recombinant protein-based flu vaccine called Flublok.

CSL Seqirus has also sought to focus on differentiated vaccines. Its adjuvanted vaccine, Fluad Quadrivalent, received a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation for people 65 and older and is “designed to have a more robust immune response," Ross said. Seqirus also offers Flucelvax Quadrivalent, a cell-based vaccine designed to match World Health Organization-selected influenza strains, for people six months and older. 

The importance of increasing flu immunization rates is threefold, Ross said. For two, it's crucial to prevent the direct consequences of the flu in individuals and to minimize the risk of simultaneous flu and coronavirus infections.

Additionally, flu immunization helps minimize the burden of flu on the heathcare system, because COVID-19 will remain “a very unpredictable virus” in the months to come, Ross added.