EU to secure 40 million avian flu vaccines for 15 countries – officials

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By Julia Payne

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The EU will sign a contract on Tuesday to secure over 40 million doses of a preventative avian flu vaccine for 15 countries with the first shipments heading to Finland, EU officials said on Monday.

The deal secures up to 665,000 doses from vaccine manufacturer CSL Seqirus and includes an option for a further 40 million vaccines for a maximum of four years. The vaccines will be jointly procured by the Commission’s emergency health arm HERA and 15 countries in the EU and the European Economic Area.

The doses are intended for those most exposed to the virus, such as poultry farm workers and veterinarians. The United States, Canada and Britain are also in the process of securing preventative vaccine doses.

“When it comes to avian influenza we are continuously and actively monitoring the situation…and 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 that have immediate needs are already on their way,” EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides told Reuters.

The H5N1 virus has spread across most of the U.S. states affecting primarily poultry and in recent months over 80 dairy farms.

So far, there have been no confirmed human-to-human transfers though three people in the U.S. were infected after exposure to infected cattle since April 1.

There are no active cases in humans or in cattle in the EU, as of early June according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

“Transmission to humans remains a rare event and no sustained transmission between humans has been observed so far,” the ECDC said in a weekly report for June 1-7.

“The risk of zoonotic influenza transmission to the general public in EU/EEA countries is considered to be low.”

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

(Reporting by Julia Payne; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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