The World Health Organization (WHO) said that worldwide production of seasonal flu vaccine is expected to double to 1.7 billion doses by 2015, with eleven new manufacturers ramping up in developing nations.
In the event of a new influenza pandemic, a projected 37 vaccine makers could potentially triple their annual production of trivalent seasonal vaccine to produce some 5.4 billion doses, the WHO said.
Experts noted that the actual amount of vaccine produced would depend upon the yield of the virus grown in the egg, which is particularly low for H1N1, along with how much adjuvant is used in the pandemic vaccine.
“The estimate is by 2015, if all projects that are currently going on get to successful implementation, we would have something around 1.7 billion doses of seasonal vaccine,” WHO assistant director-general Marie-Paule Kieny told reporters following a three-day meeting of the WHO’s Global Action Plan for Influenza Vaccines. “In making pandemic vaccine you have a multiplication by a factor of three.”
The WHO was criticized during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009-2010 for its sluggish distribution of vaccines in poor countries, and for the potential influence of the pharmaceutical industry had on the agency’s decision-making process.
“What we are continuing to do is to make sure that not only will there be more pandemic vaccine if need be, but also that the sites where these vaccines will be produced will be more diverse geographically and more populations of the world will have earlier access to pandemic vaccine,” Kieny explained.
An independent panel that reviewed the WHO’s handling of the 2009-2010 emergency issued a report earlier this year, warning that the world remained unprepared for a major pandemic.
“We do not currently have the capacity to produce in a timely way sufficient vaccine to protect the world’s population in the face of a global, severe influenza pandemic,” said Dr. Harvey Fineberg, who led the panel.