(Reuters) -Vaccine maker Seqirus, a part of Australia-based biotech company CSL Ltd, said on Tuesday it has started shipping its influenza vaccines to the United States and can supply about 60 million doses of its shots for the upcoming flu season.
The company, one of the largest vaccine providers in the world, is ramping up production to meet the demand seen during the 2020-21 season, when a record 193.8 million doses of influenza vaccines were distributed in the United States.
Healthcare providers and public health officials are "gearing up for another very strong influenza season as we kick off this shipping season," Dave Ross, the company's vice president of commercial operations for North America, said in an interview.
"We're cautiously optimistic that that immunization rates will match or exceed last year," Ross said.
Flu activity was unusually low throughout the 2020-2021 flu season both in the United States and globally, likely due to COVID-19 mitigation measures like wearing face masks as well as high influenza vaccination rates, according to health agencies.
Experts, however, have cautioned that the upcoming flu season for 2021-22 might see higher cases as COVID-19-related restrictions ease. Flu season occurs in the fall and winter, with flu activity generally peaking between December to February.
"A continued focus on influenza vaccination is critically important because, while rates of influenza were generally low last season, we cannot assume this will be the case during the coming year and we need to be prepared," Chief Medical Officer Gregg Sylvester said in a statement.
Seqirus currently offers three types of influenza vaccines that cover a wide age group - from children as young as six months of age to adults 65 years and older.
(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru and Michael Erman in New JerseyEditing by Shailesh Kuber and Matthew Lewis)