H1N1 Lessons: Pandemic Influenza Vaccine Production Capacity: Ready for the Next Pandemic ?

The most significant failure in the global public health response to pandemic H1N1 was the lack of sufficient vaccine supplies in time for the second wave of H1N1.

According to reporting from the World Health Organization (WHO) H1N1 Influenza Vaccine Task Force, global influenza vaccine production continues to fall well short of WHO’s desired production targets owing to a variety of factors.

In 2006, WHO set a goal of having vaccine supplies sufficient for two billion persons within six months of the provision of a pandemic strain to industry. H1N1 vaccine production fell well short of this goal, amounting to only 534 million doses within the six-month milestone, which was reached in December 2009.

Reasons for this trace to lower-than-expected production yields associated with egg-based production methods (H1N1 vaccine yields were two-thirds lower than their seasonal vaccine counterparts). WHO researchers also noted reluctance among some regulatory bodies to approve vaccines with adjuvants (immune system enancing additives) to stretch vaccine doses. Declining H1N1 vaccine demand and requirements for seasonal vaccine production were additional factors.

Flu vaccine production still remains mostly concentrated within a few developed countries and “among seven large manufacturers that are located in the USA, Canada, Australia, western Europe, Russia, China, and Japan.” However, overall vaccine production capacity is expanding. In 2006, vaccine production was centered in nine industrialized countries. At present, influenza vaccine production “is currently available or is being established in 25 countries.”

Within the USA, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) recently presented a series of recommendations to improve pandemic vaccine production. In the short term, key recommendations included shifting vaccine production from egg-based methods to cell-cultures, improved seed strains and testing as well as larger and more modernized facilities.

Among the longer-term recommendations were support for adjuvenated vaccines, capacity to test and develop vaccines against at least pandemic virus threats, research toward a universal vaccine, and improved guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug and Administration to streamline approvals of new vaccines.

Vitamin World

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Vitamin World

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