An editorial in Eurosurveillance: Decreased effectiveness of the influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 strain in live attenuated influenza vaccines: An observational bias or a technical challenge? Excerpt:
There are currently two types of approved influenza vaccines: inactivated or recombinant vaccines, and live attenuated vaccines. The live attenuated influenza vaccines (LAIV) constructed on a backbone of an A/Leningrad virus strain into which the seasonal haemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) selected for the vaccine were inserted by reassortment, were used in the former Soviet Union for over 50 years.
Since the early 2000s, a different attenuated virus strain based on the A/Ann Arbor strain, has been approved for vaccine manufacturing in the United States (US) and more recently in the European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA). The proposed advantages of the LAIV were that they had superior efficacy compared to inactivated vaccines in young children, they were programmatically more suited to immunisation of children and improved cost-effectiveness could potentially be achieved with childhood LAIV programmes.
LAIV have also been shown to be of great use in pandemic response since the production yield (doses per egg) is much greater than for inactivated vaccines, and the time between production and release is shorter. In addition, the nasal route of delivery could facilitate rapid population-wide immunisation during pandemics.
The technology to produce pandemic LAIV based on the A/Leningrad backbone has been licensed to the World Health Organization (WHO) for manufacture and use in developing countries. It is estimated that a total production capacity of pandemic LAIV will be ca 500 million doses by 2018 (data not shown). A loss of seasonal LAIV production capacity would impact this pandemic response capacity, and is therefore of global concern.
The US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recently withdrawn the recommendation for use of LAIV in the US for the season 2016/17 following an earlier withdrawal of a preferential recommendation. These decisions were made mainly taking into account the lack of demonstrated vaccine effectiveness (VE) against influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 in observational studies conducted. The studies by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the US Department of Defence, suggested a lower relative effectiveness in comparison to the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV).
However, two VE studies conducted in Europe and published in this issue of Eurosurveillance, reported moderate and reasonable, statistically significant VE in children aged two years and older. Furthermore, data from a study funded by the manufacturer of FluMist (US)/Fluenz (Europe) showed similar effectiveness for LAIV in the 2015/16 season. These data were also considered by the ACIP.