Vaccines Europe's statement on implementation of influenza vaccination campaign 2020/21

Vaccines Europe supports efforts by Member States and the European Commission (EC) to prevent simultaneous outbreaks of seasonal influenza and COVID-19, which would place a considerable strain on health systems. Through 2020 there has been an increased demand for influenza vaccines as health authorities seek to keep people at risk of influenza complications, and out of the hospital and community practices. Vaccine manufacturers currently foresee to deliver their agreed 2020-2021 season supply commitments to the European Union (EU) which may include any increased supply demand requested of them by EU Member States. However, given the production lead times for influenza vaccines (12-18 months) any unexpected, significant, increased demand for 2020-2021 seasonal influenza vaccine at some point in time, is hardly, if not manageable. Ultimately, any additionally available seasonal influenza vaccine doses that can be supplied for the 2020-2021 season depends on the manufacturer with whom a Member State’s health authority must negotiate to arrange.

This year specifically with the COVID-19 situation, it is important to anticipate how the Member States will implement the seasonal influenza vaccination campaign and draw some lessons from how it was conducted in the South Hemisphere. No one knows yet the epidemiology of COVID-19 in autumn when the influenza campaign will have to be implemented and if the social distancing measures will be in place again, nevertheless, proper implementation of the influenza campaign is essential and should be worked now taking into account several scenarios.

Vaccines Europe recognizes that implementing an influenza vaccination program in a COVID- 19 setting may pose significant challenges which need to be promptly anticipated and addressed to secure uptake of available vaccines in the population. Given the risk of a persisting or resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic in the upcoming European winter, Member States are urged to immediately commence program implementation planning to ensure optimal access to and uptake of, influenza vaccines amongst recommended groups in the 2020-2021 season i.e. those with associated co-morbidities, over 65 years old and young children.

Additionally, experiences from the 2020 Southern Hemisphere (SH) influenza vaccination season that combatted both COVID-19 pandemic and seasonal influenza concurrently, provides important learnings that should be considered to optimize preparation and management of the upcoming 2020-2021 Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccine season (see “Insights” section p. 3-4 for details).

Read the full statement with our recommendations and lessons learned from Southern Hemisphere 2020 influenza vaccination season experiences here.