Aventis Completes Shipment of Approximately 43 Million Doses of Influenza Vaccine

SWIFTWATER, Pa. -- Aventis today announced the company has completed shipment of approximately 43 million doses of its influenza vaccine (Fluzone, Influenza Virus Vaccine) to customers for the 2003-4 influenza season. The company was the first manufacturer to ship influenza vaccine to customers this season, with initial shipment of vaccine beginning July 28 2003, one month ahead of schedule. Aventis Pasteur, the vaccines business of Aventis, is the nation's largest supplier of influenza vaccine.

"As is usually the case, most of our 2003-4 doses were pre-booked by late spring and all of our customers received their full shipments well before the influenza season began," said Michael D. Decker, MD, MPH, vice president of scientific and medical affairs for Aventis Pasteur U.S. "Recent outbreaks of influenza caused an unprecedented surge of vaccine orders late in the immunization season and we were able to accommodate many late-season orders, which accounted for the balance of our inventory."

Individuals who are seeking immunization should be persistent in identifying healthcare providers who still have an inventory of influenza vaccine.

A strong production year and recent capacity expansions facilitated the early shipping of pre-booked orders this season. The amount of influenza vaccine produced by Aventis Pasteur is determined by the number of doses pre-booked by immunization providers in the beginning of the year plus an allowance for unexpected demand. Providers are strongly encouraged to pre-book to assist in planning vaccine production and to ensure priority for product shipped during the 2004-5 influenza season. Aventis Pasteur has already started accepting pre-booking orders for next year.

Influenza results in an annual average of 36,000 deaths in the United States, mostly among chronically ill persons and seniors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health officials recently called for renewed diligence toward improving vaccination rates among at-risk groups, citing current rates that fall short of the government's Healthy People 2010 goals. Estimated vaccination coverage among adults aged 18-64 years with high-risk conditions was 29 percent, substantially lower than the Healthy People 2000 and 2010 objectives of 60 percent. Only 41 percent of persons aged 50 to 64, and only 21 percent of persons under age 50 with chronic medical conditions, were vaccinated against influenza.

October through December is the optimal time to seek influenza immunization. Because influenza typically peaks between January and early March, vaccination is still beneficial in January and even later in the season.

Groups considered at greatest risk for developing serious influenza-related complications are recommended to receive annual vaccination. This includes the elderly; adults and children with chronic diseases, such as asthma and diabetes; and pregnant women who will be in their second or third trimester of pregnancy during the influenza season. Influenza vaccination is also recommended for those 50 to 64 years of age, household contacts of at-risk individuals and health care workers who care for at-risk patients.

Vaccination is now encouraged for healthy children aged 6 to 23 months. These children have been found to be at increased risk for influenza-related hospitalizations. Children younger than 9 years of age receiving influenza vaccine for the first time require two doses, one month apart.

All other healthy individuals under age 50 and anyone who wishes to decrease their risk of influenza infection are also encouraged to seek vaccination.

The most common side effect from influenza vaccine is soreness at the vaccination site that can last up to two days. Some people may have mild fever or feel tired for a day or two after receiving the influenza vaccine.

Injectable influenza vaccine is made from killed strains of the viruses predicted to be the main causes of influenza in the coming season. Because the viruses are killed, it is impossible to get influenza from the vaccine.

The only people who should not receive killed influenza vaccine are those who have had previous reactions to the vaccine or people who are allergic to eggs (the viruses used in the vaccine are grown in eggs) or egg products. Persons with acute febrile illness usually should not be vaccinated until their symptoms have abated. However, minor illnesses with or without fever do not contraindicate the use of influenza vaccine, particularly among children with mild upper respiratory tract infection or allergic rhinitis.

Source: Aventis Pasteur, Inc.

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