England’s National Health Service (NHS) has revealed that flu cases last week were up 75% from the same period last year.
Currently at the highest levels this winter, data shows an average of 2,226 patients were in hospital each day with flu. This is up 70% from the end of December, and three-quarters up from the same week in January 2023.
Along with flu rates, the NHS said Covid-19 figures remain a concern. Nearly 4,000 patients were in hospital with Covid each day last week, according to a 1 February press release.
Vaccines can help protect against the flu and are offered to people every year at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus. Caused by the influenza virus, flu is significantly more serious than the common cold, which is caused by a wide range of viruses.
NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Urgent and Emergency Care Julian Redhead said: “As always, I would urge the public to get their flu and Covid vaccines if they are eligible, and continue to come forward for NHS services when you need them.”
There are currently six vaccines in use for the 2023 to 2024 flu season in England, according to the UK Health Security Agency. All the vaccines protect against four subtypes of influenza. The vaccines contain two influenza A and B virus strains.
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Though these flu vaccines work with high efficacy, that has not stopped companies from exploring the next generation of jabs.
Moderna is leading the race with a recent trial win for its mRNA-1010 seasonal influenza vaccine. The investigational mRNA vaccine demonstrated strong results in a Phase III trial showing protection against all four flu strains, as per data released by the company in September 2023.
GlobalData states that Moderna is currently the leading the mRNA vaccine charge in infectious diseases. GlobalData is the parent company of Pharmaceutical Technology.
Among the six approved flu vaccines in the UK, both Sanofi’s quadrivalent influenza vaccine, and Viatris’ quadrivalent Influvac subunit Tetra, vaccine are licensed for infants from six months of age.
CSL Seqirus’ cell-based quadrivalent influenza vaccine is given to those above six months of age. AstraZeneca’s Fluenz Tetra, a live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) is for those between two and 18 years of age.
For adults over 18 years of age, Sanofi’s Supemtek, a recombinant quadrivalent influenza vaccine is used. CSL Seqirus’ other adjuvanted quadrivalent influenza vaccine (aQIV) is licensed for use for adults above 65 years of age.
In a recent deal with the UKHSA, CSL Seqirus agreed to be on standby in case of a future influenza pandemic. The advance purchase agreement, signed in September 2023, meant that the Australia-headquartered drugmaker is ready to produce more than 100 million influenza pandemic vaccines if called upon. The drugs would be manufactured at the company’s plant in Liverpool.
The government is already looking at ways of centralising the procurement of adult flu vaccines, as per a vaccination strategy published in December 2023. Currently, vaccines are obtained by individual NHS GP practices. Moving procurement to a national level could facilitate the co-administration of flu and Covid-19 vaccines, the report said.
Note: The twelfth paragraph was updated to clarify the labeled use of CSL Seqirus’ cell-based quadrivalent influenza vaccine.