HHS preparing novel H3N2 vaccine trials

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently began preparing for clinical trials of a vaccine targeting a novel H3N2 influenza virus strain that has infected 12 people.

In November, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it had developed a candidate vaccine and provided it to manufacturers in case one were to become necessary, according to CIDRAP News.

The novel H3N2 virus, H3N2v, is of swine origin and is a reassortant strain that includes the M gene from the 2009 H1N1 virus.

The CDC believes that in some of the 12 confirmed cases there was a limited person-to-person spread of the virus.

The current seasonal influenza vaccine is not thought to be capable of providing significant protection against H3N2v. It is believed that those vaccinated against similar H3N2 strains that circulated in the 1990s may have limited protection.

Gretchen Michael, a spokeswoman with the HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response, said that HHS recently asked manufacturers to produce enough H3N2v vaccine to begin clinical trials, CIDRAP News reports. The request is part of the pandemic preparedness program. The same strategy has been used for other viruses with pandemic potential, such as H5N1 and H9N2.