The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that GPs and other healthcare professionals in England should consider using Seqirus’ adjuvanted seasonal influenza vaccine, FLUAD, for the 2018-19 flu season.

This is because it is both more effective in preventing influenza, and more cost-effective in the 65 years and over age group, when compared to conventional non-adjuvanted vaccines.

FLUAD is an enhanced vaccine that has been shown in multiple studies to provide better protection against influenza for older people than conventional non-adjuvanted vaccines. This advantage was recognised by the JCVI at its meeting in June 2017.

This decision comes after Public Health England declared that conventional non-adjuvanted influenza vaccines provided little or no protection for adults aged 65 years and over in the 2016-17 flu season in the UK. The JCVI recognises that there has been “low influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) seen in the over 65-74 year olds over several A(H3N2) dominated seasons, and non-significant VE for all types of influenza in the over 75s” for some years.  Similar concerns have been raised regarding conventional non-adjuvanted vaccine efficacy in the 65+ age group in the most recent Australian flu season (May-October 2017), which has been particularly severe.

In part, this lack of vaccine efficacy is due to immunosenescence - as people age, their immune system has a reduced response to conventional non-adjuvanted vaccines. The adjuvant used in FLUAD is proven to boost immune response in patients aged 65 years and over, resulting in better protection against influenza infection when compared to conventional non-adjuvanted flu vaccines.

FLUAD also shows an increased breadth of antibody response when compared with non-adjuvanted influenza vaccines, resulting in potentially increased cross protection against drifted influenza strains in older adults. This could mean better protection for patients in seasons where there is significant antigenic drift, as occurred with A(H3N2) viruses in the 2014-15 season in the UK.

Dr George Kassianos, GP and immunisation expert, said: “I very much welcome this guidance by the JCVI. Year on year, it is becoming more and more evident that conventional non-adjuvanted influenza vaccines do not provide sufficient protection for our older patients, particularly in years dominated by the influenza A(H3N2) virus, which dominated the flu season last year and the year before. Use of this adjuvanted vaccine is expected to result in fewer infections, fewer GP consultations and hospital admissions, and a significantly reduced winter burden on the NHS. 

“On the basis of the recent JCVI Meeting Minute outlining the clinical and cost-effectiveness evidence in elderly patients, GP practices are now able to seriously consider the adjuvanted flu vaccine for their patients aged 65 years and over for the 2018-19 flu season,” Dr Kassianos concluded.