After nearly 4 years of intense work and study in the field of influenza vaccine effectiveness, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic challenging the studies, more than 30 members of the DRIVE consortium gathered in the very first DRIVE inter-work package workshop. The event was organized by WP5 and aimed to reflect on all the progress made in the project until now and strengthen the project’s communication, building upon synergies between the different partners.

The meeting was organised as a two-hour-session event which included an update from each of DRIVE’s work packages and a three simultaneous sessions to stimulate the debate and discuss the future of the project, communications and methodology. “This workshop is an excellent opportunity to share our work and to resume discussions on the current hot topics within DRIVE”, Communications work package manager from THL Riikka Rossi said.

The session kicked-off with the work package pitch talks, in which representatives of each working group briefed the attendees on research developments, key achievements, main hurdles and latest publications.

Work Package 1: Development of a governance model for joint influenza effectiveness studies in Europe, presented its work around the project governance and organisation and follow-up of the annual brainstorming sessions. They also provided an update on their efforts in preparing for the sustainability of DRIVE after IMI funding ends..

Work Package 2: Development of study tools, introduced the project’s 2021 call for tenders’ numbers, developments and the sample size tool which will be soon available on the DRIVE website.

Work Package 3: Evaluation of studies’ quality and feasibility, explained their work on identifying sources determining influenza vaccine availability​ and, as part of that, their work understanding procurement systems, among other topics. 

Work Package 4: Framework for analysis and study reports updated the team on their communications with regulatory bodies including EMA, IMI and PEI. Work package leaders also informed us on the scientific publications that are in progress. 

Work Package 5: Communication and dissemination of results, introduced communication activities for the following months and the activities planned before the upcoming annual forum, which will  be virtual again. 

Work Package 6: Project Management and coordination informed us about its work across work packages including the submission of technical and financial reports, the organisation of annual forums and call for tenders. In short, general project management. The team reminded the attendees of the publication of “Challenges and Adaptation of a European Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Study Platform in Response to the COVID-19 Emergence: Experience from the DRIVE Project” article in January 2021, in collaboration with WP7 and the study sites. 

Lastly, Work Package 7: Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Studies reported on the development of DRIVE protocols and project results’ reports. They also mentioned the publication of two articles in the Vaccine journal, disseminating the aforementioned results.

All of these updates flagged COVID-19 as the main hurdle last year. The pressure on staff, reduced attention on influenza and the interruption of the engagement process with stakeholders challenged our work but didn’t jeopardize the continuity of project activities.

Next up were the simultaneous break-down sessions which revolved around topical subjects for the project including DRIVE Communications, led by Riikka (THL) and Júlia (FISABIO) (in the context of WP5), DRIVE plans for 2021/22 season led by Anke and Jorne (P95) (in the context of WP7 and WP4) and DRIVE sustainability post-IMI framework led by Laurence (Sanofi Pasteur) and Toni (FISABIO) (in the context of WP1 and WP6).

To finish, a wrap up discussion took place to plan next steps and program the way forward.

In this occasion, DRIVE was unable to hold a F2F meeting, given the current circumstances, but hopefully the team can meet up again later in 2021 to share each other’s work, thoughts, ideas and to finally see each other again.