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ASPPH Fellow Spotlight: ASPPH/CDC Fellow Contributes to DHHS Influenza Preparedness and Response Efforts Around the World

Mr. Seth Ferrey is a participant in the ASPPH/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Public Health Fellowship Program training with the Pandemics and Emerging Threats (PET) team based in the Office of Global Affairs (OGA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in Washington, DC. Prior to the ASPPH/CDC Fellowship, he graduated with a Master of Public Health from Emory University in epidemiology.  As part of his graduate work, he participated in a World Health Organization (WHO) project in Malawi involving water, sanitation, and hygiene in health care facilities. This experience sparked his interest in international public health and led him to the ASPPH training opportunity at DHHS.

Although DHHS primarily deals with domestic public health, diseases, epidemics, and pandemics do not, of course, respect political boundaries. Therefore, OGA functions as the diplomatic public health policy office that focuses on diseases of pandemic potential, especially pandemic influenza, antimicrobial resistance, and other international emerging threats. In general, OGA connects international public health policy with domestic public health policy.

Mr. Ferrey’s training portfolio focuses primarily on pandemic influenza efforts within OGA. A major component of this policy work includes working with international and multilateral organizations (including the WHO) and foreign governments to build and sustain influenza preparedness and response capacity around the world. One of Mr. Ferrey’s projects addresses issues related to capacity building through influenza vaccine manufacturing.

In 2006, a ten-year long influenza vaccine project was launched by the WHO. Known as the Global Action Plan for Influenza Vaccines, or simply as GAP, the plan provided funding and technical expertise to vaccine manufacturers in each WHO region to develop influenza vaccines. The manufacturers varied in size, technical expertise, and vaccines produced at the time; some had a projected vaccine capacity of many millions of doses and some only a few hundred thousand. Through expertise provided by WHO, international partners and DHHS agencies like the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the CDC, were successful in licensing their first influenza vaccines.

Although the Global Action Plan sunset in 2016, many of the influenza vaccine manufacturers remain in critical need of support and guidance. To ensure the gains of the past decade aren’t lost, OGA has worked extensively to provide policy support for national and international groups to discuss a reasonable path forward to guarantee continued global influenza vaccine capacity.

One of the success stories of GAP is the Institute of Vaccine and Biologicals (IVAC), in Vietnam. In January, Mr. Ferrey was able to attend and provide support for DHHS officials during an official influenza license ceremony and press conference. IVAC is a relatively low capacity manufacturer, and the next couple years of vaccine production and procurement will be critical to the success of the company.

Over the last year and a half, Mr. Ferrey has worked to advance the work done under the GAP years through coordination and communication with international influenza experts. He has been involved with writing WHO articles and drafting resolutions, organizing United States sponsored vaccine confidence side events, presenting on GAP work at the “Options to End Influenza X” influenza conference in Singapore in August, and had the honor of representing the United States as a delegate at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, in May.