With new swine flu fatalities being reported in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, the U.S. government has decided to dole out a billion dollars to a group of major vaccine manufacturers to fuel the rapid development of a new vaccine.
Novartis led the pack with $289 million in federal support, followed by Sanofi Aventis with $191 million and GlaxoSmithKline, which gets $181 million. The money will fund clinical tests on a new A/H1N1 vaccine this summer followed by the stockpiling of primary ingredients for a new vaccine, in case the U.S. triggers a multibillion-dollar immunization campaign in the fall.
On Monday, Sanofi said that the U.S. order was "the first of what is expected to be a series of orders." Sanofi, which manufactures vaccines in Pennsylvania and France, added that it is also in discussions with other governments around the world.
The U.S. strategy will de-risk the companies' vaccine development plans, providing the funds for developing a new jab that may never be used. But as new deaths grab headlines around the world, it appears increasingly likely that the vaccine industry will roll out a three-shot vaccine series to guard against swine flu as well as seasonal flu.