World Health Organization 2019-2020 Influenza Vaccine Recommendations

Every February, the World Health Organization (WHO) releases their recommended compositions for the influenza virus vaccines for the coming influenza season. These recommendations consist of four strains of influenza to be included in egg-based vaccines.

On February 21, the WHO released their recommendations for the 2019-2020 influenza season for 3 of the 4 strains, which included:

  • An A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
  • A B/Colorado/06/2017-like virus (B/Victoria/2/87 lineage)
  • A B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (B/Yamagata/16/88 lineage)

The WHO delayed their recommendation for the final influenza A component for the 2019-2020 influenza season due to the high mutation rates seen in the H3N2 strain. After an additional month of observation, the WHO released their final recommendation to vaccinate against an A/Kansas/14/2017 (H3N2)-like virus.

Egg-based vaccine production is the slowest vaccine production method, due to the many complicated and time-consuming steps involved in the process, and remains the most common production method for influenza vaccines. The WHO aims to release their recommendations as early as possible, while still accounting for accuracy and allowing enough time for vaccine production to take place. Delaying their full recommendations is extremely unusual.

PHSI predicts that the WHO’s month-long delay in releasing the recommendations will likely have an impact on influenza vaccine supply and may lead to more vaccine shortages. PHSI also believes that this delay may lead to an increased demand for cell-based flu vaccines in the upcoming and in future influenza seasons. This will be an interesting story to follow as the 2019-2020 influenza season approaches.


Posted: May 2019

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