WHO touts flu, pandemic vax readiness

The World Health Organization appears to be getting on top of the complex supply/demand dynamic of pandemic vaccine readiness--despite reports to the contrary. WHO said late last week in News Tonight that its 37 vaccine makers around the world "could potentially triple their annual production of trivalent seasonal vaccine to make 5.4 billion doses of pandemic vaccine."

The United Nations agency also said it expects the global production of seasonal flu vaccine to double to 1.7 billion doses by 2015 thanks to the addition of 11 manufacturers to the task.

The announcements follow criticism of an independent review panel earlier this year that said WHO remains mismanaged when it comes to dealing with a pandemic. The criticism is yet another aftershock of the 2009 stockouts and shortages of swine flu vaccine largely blamed on manufacturing delays and the lengthy egg-based vaccine-making process.

But WHO assistant director-general Marie-Paule Kieny now says that even in the face of a massive pandemic, the agency has made sure that the vaccine stock is adequate. In addition, the manufacturing sites are widely distributed, aiding worldwide distribution.

Separately, in late June, the Government Accountability Office estimated that the U.S. has spent $2.1 billion in support of new vax-making technology since fiscal year 2005.

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