Cell-based flu vaccine joins National Immunisation Program

Monday, 05 February, 2024

Cell-based flu vaccine joins National Immunisation Program

CSL Seqirus has announced that its cell-based influenza vaccine, Flucelvax QUAD, will be available on the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for the 2024 Australian influenza season. It is understood to be the first and only cell-based influenza vaccine available in Australia and will be reimbursed for people at higher risk of complications from flu, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 5–64 years, pregnant women and people aged 5–64 years with co-existing medical conditions.

Cell-based flu vaccines are designed to be a close match to the strains selected by the World Health Organization (WHO) as likely to be prevalent for the upcoming flu season. They allow Australia to be less reliant on traditional egg-based influenza vaccines and the intensive manufacturing processes they utilise.

Such vaccines are also not affected by egg-adapted vaccine virus mismatch seen in some flu seasons, which may bring potential clinical advantages. Indeed, a recent study found that cell-based flu vaccines demonstrated 10–15% greater relative effectiveness in preventing test-confirmed influenza among people aged 4–64 years of age, across three flu seasons in the United States, compared to traditional egg-based vaccines.

According to infectious diseases expert Professor Robert Booy, access to Flucelvax QUAD via the NIP is welcome news for healthcare professionals and their eligible patients. “Seasonal circulation of influenza is expected to continue, which means vulnerable groups remain at high risk of infection and potentially life-threatening complications,” Booy said.

“Being able to offer a cell-based influenza vaccine to vulnerable patients on the NIP gives us an important option for protection against the virus, which ultimately enables more Australians to be prepared for flu season.

“In 2023, approximately 25% of the population aged 5–64 years were vaccinated against influenza. With coverage like that, there’s certainly a strong chance that many vulnerable Australians are not getting vaccinated against influenza.”

Julianne Bayliss, Vaccines Medical Director at CSL Seqirus, said influenza vaccination is incredibly important to help take pressure off the healthcare system. “As an Australian company, we’re proud to make this cell-based flu vaccine available to help protect the most vulnerable people in our community and reduce pressure on our health system,” she said.

“Flucelvax QUAD is also available for Australians who do not qualify for influenza vaccination via the NIP. With 58% of Australians not aware of what flu vaccine options were available to them in 2023, GPs, nurses and pharmacists are best placed to discuss prevention options to help Australians make informed decisions about what suits their individual needs.”

A quadrivalent influenza vaccine, Flucelvax QUAD will be produced in Australia from 2027 when CSL Seqirus’s cell-based vaccine manufacturing facility comes online in Tullamarine, Melbourne. The company’s adjuvanted influenza vaccine, Fluad Quad, remains on the NIP for Australians aged 65 and over in 2024. Afluria Quad will no longer be available on the NIP.

Image credit: iStock.com/narvikk

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