Florence Baron-Papillon - 17 Dec 2021
On Vaccines Europe’s 30-year anniversary, I’d like to celebrate the great progress that’s been made
in influenza vaccination.
Flu infections create an enormous burden on our healthcare systems, but as importantly, they trigger
unexpected complications including heart attacks and strokes. All adults are in fact ten times more
likely to have a heart attack following a flu infection than at any other time. 1 And vaccines can help
reduce that risk by 15-45%. 2
In thirty years then, the industry has made significant strides in combatting the true burden of
influenza. We have moved from monovalent to quadrivalent vaccines and have evolved from a
single type of vaccine for all to vaccines appropriately tailored for the needs of different populations:
we have designed vaccines for specific populations at risk like young children and people over 60. We
have also realized the protection from hospitalizations due to cardiovascular events and pneumonia
is critical and must be demonstrated by vaccines.
In the last thirty years, we’ve been able to collect, analyze and apply a wealth of data to demonstrate
and improve these vaccines’ value over time. Global surveillance systems put in place in hospitals
help connect the dots of influenza’s epidemiology and true health burden, as well as vaccines’
efficacy, safety, and impact against severe disease.
Growing evidence of how influenza vaccines protect health beyond flu has also emerged from these
networks, thanks to unprecedented collaborations well achieved across industry players, public
health institutions and regulators.
So in thirty years, the influenza vaccine has evolved from a product to a truly comprehensive public
health tool supported by coordinated engagement across all stakeholders, from doctors to
pharmacists, hospitals, citizens and policy makers, among many others.
And I believe that’s just the beginning.
Looking ahead, I imagine a Europe without influenza-related deaths and suffering. And the first step
towards that ideal would be to see even more collaboration across health care systems to help us
collectively achieve a 75% vaccine coverage rate across the continent.
By 2051, I am willing to bet that we will see further leaps in innovation with flu vaccines targeting
new proteins of interest, use of mRNA technologies born out of the pandemic, as well as even
broader and deeper public-private collaboration models to better tackle potential future public
And that’s why the most memorable thing about the last thirty years hasn’t been just one moment
but the witnessing of this fantastic progress over the entire period.
As I look ahead, it’s incredibly exciting to know the innovation isn’t stopping but rather accelerating
forward towards an even better future.
1 Kwong, et al. N Engl J Med 2018;378:345-53. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1702090
2 MacIntyre CR, et al. Heart 2016;102:1953–1956. DOI:10.1136/heartjnl-2016-309983
Author: Florence Baron-Papillon is Head of Corporate Public Affairs Europe at Sanofi.