U.S. has enough capacity for typical season; experts less sure about global outlook
MONDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- The current swine flu outbreak is raising critical questions about the timing of bringing a new vaccine to market and the logistics of getting it to the people who need it.
If vaccine manufacturers shift gears immediately, it could cut into this fall's production of seasonal influenza vaccine, experts say. If they wait too long, the H1N1 influenza (swine flu) virus could become more virulent.
Global vaccine experts, as part of a series of meetings convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), met Thursday to weigh the evidence that will lead to a recommendation to manufacturers.
"These are enormously complicated questions, and they're not something that anyone can make [decisions about] in a single meeting," Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's interim assistant director-general for health security and environment, said during a Thursday press briefing.
The WHO is expected to issue advice to vaccine manufacturers and the World Health Assembly this week, the Associated Press reported.
Six manufacturers currently supply vaccine to the U.S. market, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those same facilities would be the ones to produce swine flu vaccine, experts say.
At present, most U.S. flu vaccine is produced in Europe, noted Dr. Holger Rovini, lead analyst for infectious diseases at Datamonitor, a London-based market research firm.
However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently licensed vaccine maker Sanofi Pasteur's new influenza vaccine manufacturing facility in Swiftwater, Pa., expanding the company's capacity to produce seasonal flu vaccine in the United States from 50 million doses to 150 million doses annually.
"That is enough to supply the whole of the U.S. market at current demand," Rovini poi
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