GSK, bioCSL to increase flu vaccine deliveries to U.S.

Early signs of the upcoming flu season came this week as three vaccine makers--GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), Sanofi Pasteur and bioCSL--announced their first shipments of flu shots for the 2015-16 season, with two reporting that they will increase the amount of doses they deliver.

GSK said it'll amp its dose count this year by 5 million to 11 million over last year's 27 million doses, while bioCSL said it plans to ship 18 million doses to the U.S., an increase of 20%. Sanofi Pasteur's initial shipment represents the first of more than 65 million doses it plans to deliver throughout the season.

In a change this year, GSK said it plans to only ship quadrivalent flu vaccines to offer broader protection over the trivalent it had been shipping up until last year.

"With flu a priority focus of our portfolio, we have made a significant investment in customer service upgrades, designed to accelerate delivery timelines to customers," Patrick Desbiens, GSK senior vice president of U.S. vaccines, said in a statement.

The news comes after a flu season that many vaccine producers would rather forget: Efficacy fell off a cliff last year due to a late strain change, leading to the shots being just 19% effective in preventing medical visits. That compared with around 50% over the previous three years.

And, to top it off, GSK in April issued a recall for its remaining Flulaval quadrivalent thimerosal-free vaccines in pre-filled syringes due to potency concerns; the pharma reported a 25% sales increase for its flu vaccines before the recall.

The CDC recommends a yearly influenza immunization for everyone over the age of 6 months. During the 2013-14 season, the agency estimated vaccinations prevented 7.2 million influenza-associated illnesses, 3.1 million medically attended illnesses and 90,000 hospitalizations.

- here's the GSK release
- read the Sanofi Pasteur statement
- see the bioCSL release