Pandemic preparedness: lessons learnt from H2N2 and H9N2 candidate vaccines
- Cite this article as:
- Hehme, N., Engelmann, H., Künzel, W. et al. Med Microbiol Immunol (2002) 191: 203. doi:10.1007/s00430-002-0147-9
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Vaccination against influenza is considered to be one of the key interventions in case of a pandemic. Unfortunately, shortages in vaccine supplies will occur because of the substantial increase in vaccine demands worldwide and the limited available supply resources. The recommended use of monovalent – instead of current trivalent – vaccines containing 15 µg hemagglutinin (HA) per dose can theoretically triple vaccine volumes but is unlikely to meet the demand. Furthermore, previous experiences demonstrated that one dose of 15 µg HA will not be sufficient to elicit protective antibody levels in unprimed individuals. Modified formulation approaches were investigated, that would be suitable to provide significantly higher volumes of potent vaccine within a given period of time. Low doses of HA combined with aluminum (Al) adjuvants and the use of whole virus instead of split or subunit antigens can lead to substantial increases in process yield. In addition, production of whole virus vaccines will reduce manufacturing complexity. In a dose-finding study in healthy adults and elderly, immune responses after administration of Al-adjuvanted low-dose formulations were compared to a standard split virus vaccine (Fluarix, GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, Rixensart, Belgium). All vaccines were safe and well tolerated. Antigen concentrations as low as 1.9 µg HA/strain per dose of adjuvant-containing experimental vaccines induced protective antibody levels in primed populations. Reactogenicity profiles of Al-adjuvanted low-dose vaccines were investigated in a feasibility trial. Neither the use of Al-adjuvant nor of whole virus had a significant effect on general reactions. Studies in unprimed populations with H2N2 and H9N2 candidate vaccines showed different results, with a potential need for a two-dose schedule. Indeed, hemagglutination inhibition titers did not reach protective levels after a single vaccine dose but could be met following administration of a second dose. The same is true for Al-adjuvanted whole virus formulations with an up to eightfold-reduced antigen content. It may be concluded that the use of Al-adjuvanted whole virus vaccines with low HA content can raise protective antibody levels after two vaccine doses, which may, in turn, result in significant increases of vaccine supplies in the case of a pandemic.