WHO May Okay Production of Vaccine Against H1N1
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08 May 2009
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India
Mass production of a vaccine against the deadly H1N1 swine flu virus–between one and two billion doses–could be given the go-ahead by the World Health Organisation next week.
A high-level expert committee is meeting in Geneva on May 14 to finalise whether it is time for drug makers to switch from seasonal vaccine production to pandemic flu production.
Following this, another meeting at the highest level, among WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan, UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon and heads of all big influenza vaccine manufacturers, will take place on May 19 to ensure fair and equitable distribution of the pandemic vaccine–once it is available–to developing countries.
It is expected to take four to six months for the first lot of the H1N1 flu vaccines to become available between the time the strain of the virus is identified and the first doses are made available to the general public.
CDC Atlanta has already isolated a sample of the virus and grown what’s called a seed stock–a strain of the virus that’s the first step towards growing a vaccine.
Marie Paule Kieny, WHO’s director of the Initiative for Vaccine Research, said on Wednesday that the seed would be available to the manufacturers by the second half of May.
WHO has, in the meantime, asked all pharmaceutical manufacturers to get ready to produce vaccines against an impending pandemic by the influenza H1N1 virus.
Kieny said, “The expert committee will be asked next week to provide advice to WHO on whether there is enough evidence for the organisation to recommend that manufacturers should start to go ahead with largescale manufacturing of H1N1 vaccine.”
Before following WHO’s recommendation, manufacturers would need foolproof data on how severe the new flu strain is and whether one or two doses of vaccine will be needed.
At least 20 multinational pharma companies make flu vaccines across the world.