Investing in Immunity: Prepandemic Immunization to Combat Future Influenza Pandemics

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We are unlikely, with current technologies, to have sufficient pandemic influenza vaccine ready in time to impact the first wave of the next pandemic. Emerging data show that prior immunization with an immunologically distinct hemagglutinin of the same subtype offers the potential to “prime” recipients for rapid protection with a booster dose, years later, of a vaccine then manufactured to match the pandemic strain. This article proposes making prepandemic priming vaccine(s) available for voluntary use, particularly to those at high risk of early occupational exposure, such as first responders and healthcare workers, and to others maintaining critical infrastructure. In addition to providing faster protection and potentially reducing social disruption, being able, early in a pandemic, to immunize those who had received prepandemic vaccine with one dose of the pandemic vaccine, rather than the 2 doses typically required, would reduce the total doses of pandemic vaccine then needed, extending vaccine supplies.

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