With a full-scale pandemic alert lifting share prices at the world's leading vaccine companies, researchers are leaping into experimental trials with an eye to taking the lead in the frenzied race to produce the world's first approved swine flu vaccine.
China's Sinovac Biotech says it can complete a clinical trial by the end of July. Baxter International, meanwhile, says it thinks it can start filling orders next month. And Novartis says it believes it can have a vaccine ready for sale in the autumn. The Financial Times is reporting today that Novartis won't give the vaccine to developing countries for free, but is considering discounts.
"The most difficult part is that we are not sure about the performance of the virus seed since it is completely new to us," Sinovac's regulatory director, Gong Xuejie, told Reuters. "Time is very short. We don't know whether we will be able to produce enough vaccines before the second wave of mass breakout."
While swine flu has proven to be relatively mild as it spreads around the globe, each new death triggers fresh headlines and raises the prospect of an ambitious vaccination program around the world.