By: Schnirring, Lisa
Federal health officials are considering whether to stockpile a vaccine against the H7N9 flu virus, as vaccine companies ramp up production of the vaccine for clinical trials scheduled to commence in August. Dr. Robin Robinson, director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, told the National Vaccine Advisory Committee that an assessment tool has been used over the last four years to gauge the risks of novel flu viruses and determine whether vaccines and other preparedness activities are warranted. He said a large-scale vaccination campaign would be considered for H7N9 if human-to-human transmission occurs. Nine seed strains of H7N9 have been developed, mainly using reverse genetics, with Robinson noting that traditional egg-based production methods have resulted in disappointing yields of antigen, just like with the 2009 H1N1 vaccine. However, he says vaccine developers have two new platforms for the H7N9 trials, cell-based and recombinant. Robinson cautions that H7 vaccines have not produced strong results so far.