ECDC: Seasonal influenza vaccines must be improved

Representatives from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said on Monday that seasonal influenza vaccines must be improved to increase and sustain influenza vaccine coverage in Europe.

Marc Sprenger, the director of the ECDC, and Angus Nicoll, the head of the influenza and other respiratory viruses program, commented on the need to improve the seasonal vaccine effectiveness in the elderly and clinical risk groups. The commentary, which was published in The Lancet, said that effectiveness for the vaccine has routinely been less than 75 percent.

"From the public perspective and a public health standpoint, to achieve increased, sustainable influenza vaccine coverage in Europe, we need safe and effective vaccines that will encourage their use by vulnerable individuals, patients, doctors, nurses, and the authorities," Sprenger and Nicoll said.

Sprenger and Nicoll said that nearly all current vaccines use old technology and that little incentive is provided for innovation and change. Additionally, the investigation of improved seasonal vaccines is wavering. The ECDC representatives said that in addition to the annual strain update, the consideration of the observed effectiveness of vaccines could also be beneficial.

By increasing the effectiveness of vaccines, the use of vaccines would be encouraged in risk groups. This would help the European Union to reach its national target of 75 percent coverage for people above the age of 65, patients with chronic health problems and healthcare workers.

The authors concluded that vaccination with the current vaccines is still the most effective preventive measure against seasonal influenza.