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US HHS Contracts for H3N2v Vaccine Clinical Trials
Recombinomics Commentary 16:00
January 6, 2012

HHS has contracted with pharmaceutical companies Novartis and Sanofi Pasteur to develop investigational lots of the vaccine. Novartis will produce its supply using cell-culture technology at its plant in Holly Springs, North Carolina, and Sanofi Pasteur will grow the vaccine in chicken eggs (a slower method of production) at its plant in Swiftwater, Pennsylvania.

The influenza virus being targeted is a variant of the A(H3N2) virus found in pigs.

The above comments describe preparations for spring clinical trials for an H3N2v pandemic vaccine.  These developments are not a surprise.  In August the CDC released sequences of vaccine constructs of A/Minnesota/11/2010, which was followed by a WHO September 29, 2011 report on vaccines, showing that the sera against the above target was effective against the first H3N2pdm11 isolate, A/Indiana/08/2011.
Although December media reports cited the creation of a seed vaccine, the real drivers for the clinical trials were the H3N2pdm11 cluster at the daycare center in Iowa, followed by the trH3N2 sustained cluster in the daycare center in Mineral County, West Virginia (which has a novel N2 which has acquired seasonal polymorphisms via recombination.

The West Virginia cluster was alarming, with 23/70 contacts of the index case exhibiting ILI (influenza-like illness), which led to a CDC request to all states to increase surveillance, especially in children.  Multiple states issued advisories or alerts, including Marin County, California, which also cited a new H3N2v case in a Napa county resident in its week 50 report.

Today the CDC published the December 23 early release MMWR, which described the West Virginia cluster, which made it clear that transmission was sustained for a month at the daycare center, but failed to note that 23 contacts had ILI.  In December the CDC also held a 50 state conference call.

An explosion of H3N2v cases and clusters is expected this month.

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