EU Secures 40 Million Avian Flu Vaccines for 15 Countries

The European Union is set to sign a contract to secure more than 40 million doses of a preventative avian flu vaccine for 15 countries. The first shipments of the vaccine will be sent to Finland, according to EU officials.

The contract, which will be signed on Tuesday, includes up to 665,000 doses from vaccine manufacturer CSL Seqirus. There is also an option for an additional 40 million vaccines over a maximum of four years. The vaccines will be procured jointly by the European Commission’s emergency health arm HERA and 15 countries in the EU and the European Economic Area.

These doses are specifically intended for individuals who are most at risk of exposure to the avian flu virus, such as poultry farm workers and veterinarians. The United States, Canada, and Britain are also working on securing preventative vaccine doses.

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides stated, “When it comes to avian influenza, we are continuously monitoring the situation. Tomorrow, with our Member States, we are ensuring access to over 40 million doses of avian influenza vaccine to protect those most exposed. Deliveries to countries with immediate needs are already underway.”

The H5N1 virus has been spreading across many U.S. states, primarily affecting poultry and recently impacting over 80 dairy farms. While there have been three confirmed cases of people in the U.S. infected after exposure to infected cattle since April 1, there have been no confirmed human-to-human transfers.

As of early June, there are no active cases of avian flu in humans or cattle in the EU, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The risk of zoonotic influenza transmission to the general public in EU/EEA countries is considered to be low.

The European Commission, through HERA, has already secured 111 million doses of pandemic influenza vaccines from GSK and Seqirus, which can be adapted to any prevailing flu strain.

(Reporting by Julia Payne; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)