The Ninth ESWI Influenza Conference: Highlights

1. Promising work on “correlates of protection”:  New generation vaccines for respiratory virus infections, including those for influenza and COVID-19, may stimulate broader immune responses, offering more comprehensive protection by targeting the induction of both protective antibody and T cell responses.

2. Vaccine and Diagnostics Advancements: The pandemic accelerated the development of new generation vaccines, notably mRNA vaccines, and diagnostic tests, like lateral flow immunoassays, with broad applications.

3. Exciting Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Breakthroughs: There has been significant progress in the prevention and treatment of RSV with vaccines and monoclonal antibodies. This is now being paralleled by improved surveillance for RSV infections in children and older adults.

4. Pandemic Preparedness: Varied levels of readiness among countries during the COVID-19 pandemic are now being studied to see which combinations of intervention strategies worked best. These will better inform preparations for future pandemics.

5. Long COVID Variations: Distinct immune reactions contribute to different forms of Long COVID, including fatigue, heart, lung, or gut problems, among others. There are still many unsolved questions concerning the pathogenesis of these different forms, which all necessitate tailored treatment strategies.

6. H5N1 Bird Flu: A global surge in H5N1 bird flu cases in wild birds and poultry flocks, which now have also spilled over to terrestrial and aquatic mammals, poses a threat to animals and possibly eventually to humans, underscoring the importance of animal and human monitoring for avian influenza viruses.

7. Global Access to Drugs and Vaccines: The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the importance and need for equitable access to antiviral drugs and vaccines worldwide as part of pandemic preparedness.

8. Risk groups: Several high-risk groups like pregnant women, young children and older adults,  as well as individuals with chronic medical conditions are at risk of suffering from increased severity of influenza, COVID-19 and RSV disease, highlighting the importance of vaccination of these groups against these infections.

9. Vaccine Hesitancy: Addressing vaccine hesitancy requires a nuanced understanding of public concerns and more accurate strategies of risk-benefit communication.

10. Uncertain Influenza Landscape: The future of the B/Yamagata influenza virus remains uncertain, in view of its virtual disappearance during the COVID pandemic.  Scientists advise caution before discontinuing to have it represented in seasonal influenza vaccines.