WHO, U.N. Encourage Vaccine Makers To Stick With Seasonal Flu Vaccine, Prepare for H1N1 Vaccine
As the number of confirmed H1N1 (swine) flu cases worldwide approached 10,000 on Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and WHO chief Margaret Chan gathered with representatives from 30 pharmaceutical companies to discuss how to ensure all countries have access to drugs and a possible vaccine, Forbes reports (Kwok, Forbes, 5/20).
Ban encouraged pharmaceutical company executives to increase seasonal flu vaccine production while preparing for a H1N1 vaccine and emphasized the need for drugmakers and governments of the world to work together, Reuters reports. "Partnerships with the private sector are absolutely vital," Ban said during an address to the World Health Assembly congress (Reid/MacInnis, Reuters, 5/19), adding, "Solidarity in the face of this particular outbreak must mean that all have access to drugs and vaccines. It means that virus samples and data are shared" (AFP/Google.com, 5/19).
Though WHO first estimated that production of a H1N1 vaccine could begin as early as May, WHO officials announced that it was taking longer than anticipated to produce the H1N1 seed stock, and it would be unlikely they could have the seed stock into the hands of vaccine manufacturers before mid-July. The CDC, which is working independently on a H1N1 seed stock, still believes its seed stock will be ready by the end of the month (Los Angeles Times, 5/20). "WHO estimates seasonal vaccine production will be 73% complete by the end of next month and 90% complete by July 31," Bloomberg writes (Gale/Doherty, Bloomberg, 5/19). Experts estimate it will take four to six months from the time manufacturers receive the seed stock before a H1N1 vaccine is commercially available.
New analysis released by the WHO on Tuesday estimates that "under optimal conditions" up to 4.9 billion doses of an H1N1 vaccine could be produced within a 12-month period "a bigger output then the 1 billion to 2 billion doses estimated earlier," the Washington Times reports (Zarocostas, Washington Times, 5/20).
During Tuesday's meeting, a group of drug makers vowed to make 10% of their H1N1 vaccines available to the U.N. Chan said that six companies have committed to the pledge, while others are considering different commitments (Lynn, Reuters, 5/19). "The offer from the umbrella group, which includes companies from China, India, Brazil, Mexico and other emerging nations, ups the ante on vaccine companies in rich nations to make generous offers," the Washington Times writes (Washington Times, 5/20).
GlaxoSmithKline on Tuesday said that it has offered to donate 50 million doses of an H1N1 vaccine to the WHO in the event of a swine flu pandemic, but the agreement has not been finalized by the company or WHO, AP/Google.com reports. "So far, other big vaccine makers have not followed suit with offers to donate," AP/Google.com reports. (AP/Google.com, 5/19).
Bloomberg reports that a panel of experts will meet in several weeks "to review the speed at which drugmakers are building their seasonal vaccine stockpiles as well as the spread and severity of swine flu." They will then decide whether to recommend vaccine makers switch from manufacturing season flu vaccines to the H1N1 vaccine. Chan will make the final decision on whether to endorse panel's recommendations (Bloomberg, 5/19). The WHO on Wednesday reported that 40 countries have confirmed 10,243 cases of H1N1 infection, including 80 deaths. A full list of country cases and deaths is available here (WHO Influenza A(H1N1) - update 34, 5/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.