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Sanofi expects one-month delay of vaccine shipments for fall flu season

Key Points
  • Sanofi's flu vaccine shipments will be delayed by roughly one month this upcoming flu season.
  • The French drugmaker says shipment of its vaccines will begin in mid-August, with all shipments expected to be completed by the end of November.
An employee works on an influenza vaccines production line at the factory Sanofi Pasteur.
Charly Triballeau | AFP | Getty Images

Sanofi's flu vaccine shipments will be delayed by roughly one month this upcoming flu season, according to the French drugmaker.

Sanofi said Wednesday that shipment of its vaccines will begin in mid-August, with all shipments expected to be completed by the end of November. The company said the delay is due to the World Health Organization taking a bit longer to select vaccine virus strains. The extra time allowed health officials to improve the match of strains of H3N2 viruses expected to circulate during the 2019-2020 season, Sanofi said.

"We are still on track to produce approximately 70 million doses of seasonal vaccine to support nationwide immunization campaigns," Sanofi spokesperson Nicolas Kressmann said in a statement.

The delay "most likely won't have an adverse effect due to available vaccines from other manufacturers," said Dr. James Cherry, a professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. He said it's only bad if there's some sort of shift in the virus. In that case, the vaccine may not be good anyway.

The flu season typically begins in the fall and can last until as late as May, with activity tending to peak between December and February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency recommends getting vaccinated early, ideally by the end of October, when the flu begins to spread.

Between 36,400 and 61,200 people died and more than 530,000 were hospitalized last flu season, which ended in early May, according to CDC estimates. It wasn't as severe as previous seasons but was one of the longest seasons in years. About 80,000 Americans died of the flu and its complications in the 2017-2018 season, one of the deadliest in decades.