UPDATED: GSK blames chickenpox vaccine shortage on plant problems

Manufacturing problems have created shortages of a variety of vaccines around the world. Now GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) is warning that problems at a plant in Belgium will cause a shortage of two chickenpox vaccines in the countries where they are sold. The vaccines are not sold in the U.S.

A GSK spokesman told Reuters today that the company will need to reallocate its 2014 supply of its Varilrix chickenpox vaccine, as well as Priorix-Tetra, a MMRV combo vaccine for measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox). Robert Perry, director of external communications for GSK in the U.S. told FiercePharma Tuesday that the two vaccines are not licensed in the U.S. Varilix is available in more than 90 countries and Priorix Tetra is available in more than 50 countries. Both vaccines are licensed in Canada, Perry said.

The interruption was attributed to problems at a plant in Belgium. Perry said late last year, GSK uncovered a manufacturing issue that involved some varicella-containing vaccine batches that were not meeting GSK release criteria and standards. "As a pre-cautionary measure, the final release of all varicella-containing vaccine has been put on hold until we complete testing and analysis designed to identify the root cause of the issue," he said.

Perry said all of the batches of Varilrix and Priorix-Tetra currently on the market meet all release specifications and safe and effective to use. He said the company expects to be able to provide an update in February, "based on the lead time required to conduct the different analyses currently taking place."

Last fall, Sanofi Pasteur said that there would be a shortfall of its pertussis-containing vaccines Pentacel, Adacel and Daptacel after an "anomaly" at a plant in Toronto led it to stop producing them. It began delivering the vaccines again in October. GSK had tried to take up some of the slack with its vaccines but also warned that the situation could result in some spot outages of its own Boostrix (Tdap) vaccine, according to a November update by the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

- read the Reuters story

Editor's Note: The story has been updated to reflect that the two vaccines are not sold in the U.S.