New incidences of swine flu continue to occur around the globe, with the World Health Organization saying that there have been 12,515 cases in 47 countries, with over 90 people believed to have died after contracting H1N1.
Consequently governments are remaining vigilant and the HHS has used its existing pandemic stockpile contract with Sanofi to place a $190m (€136.5m) order, which will cover the production of bulk vaccine and related activities.
Sanofi is still waiting to receive the seed virus from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) but is confident that its experience and knowledge will enable it to act quickly when the material is supplied.
Wayne Pisano, president and CEO of Sanofi Pasteur, said:“Production of a new vaccine is not a simple task and there are a number of necessary and complex steps that must be taken before a vaccine can be made available to the public, but we have experience on our side.
“Previously, we developed and licensed the first pre-pandemic vaccine for H5N1 and we look forward to further demonstrating our experience and expertise in vaccine development as we prepare for this new threat from A(H1N1).”
When Sanofi receives the seed virus it will commence development efforts, with commercial production planned for June. Production will initially occur in one of Sanofi’s facilities in Swiftwater, Pennsylvania, with the other plant in the town being converted to H1N1 manufacture at a later date.
Pisano emphasized the benefits of being able to switch between different vaccines at production plants, saying: “Our philosophy is to maintain flexibility in our influenza vaccine production, to enable us to answer public health needs wherever they are.We know that seasonal influenza remains a global threat and, in many countries, especially developing countries, H5N1 is still a greater threat than A(H1N1).”