With Japanese officials calling for calm as swine flu starts spreading in the island nation, the World Health Organization is pressing a group of global vaccine manufacturers to get ready to mass-produce a new flu vaccine. WHO wants Sanofi-Aventis and others to have a vaccine identified and ready to go by mid-July. At that point the big vaccine makers will already have produced the bulk of the seasonal vaccine needed for the upcoming flu season.
Director-General Margaret Chan has agreed with an expert panel at the WHO, which recommended that the drug makers identify the fastest growing strain of the virus and start testing a new vaccine as they also rush to gather the documents needed for an accelerated review by regulators around the world. And Glaxo says that it will have the best strain identified by the end of the month.
"Our companies stand ready to produce H1N1 vaccines when the recommendation comes from the WHO," said Michael D. Boyd, acting director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations.
In order to help avoid a global tussle for vaccine supplies, WHO plans to ask the top suppliers to set aside 10 percent of their production to donate to poor countries. Six of 30 vaccine makers have already agreed to contribute supplies to lesser developer countries.
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