President Obama was determined to stay ahead of the H1N1 flu pandemic, but vaccine delays have been a political setback--and fixing the problem could be a political sand trap. The U.S. had promised that 120 million H1N1 shots would roll into use by the end of November. Obviously, that hasn't happened. In fact, the target has been lowered twice, with some 23.2 million doses available now, just two days before October 31.
Both the Obama Administration and the pharma industry is playing catch-up. HHS Chief Kathleen Sebelius has said she was relying on the manufacturers' delivery promises when she announced how many doses would be available and when. And drugmakers are scrambling to a.) explain their manufacturing troubles, and b.) promise delivery, stat. Indeed, vaccine makers are saying today that they're actually on track to meet their U.S. commitments.
Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella said earlier this week that his company wouldn't complete its U.S. vaccine order until January. But now, the company says it will get 30 million doses delivered by the end of November. "Not only did we complete our commitment to provide seasonal vaccine ahead of schedule, we are making every effort to make as much H1N1 vaccine available as quickly as possible," Novartis vaccines chief Andrin Oswald said in a statement (as quoted by Reuters).
Sanofi says it's on schedule to deliver more than 75 million doses to the U.S. AstraZeneca says its MedImmune unit distributed 10 million doses of its nasal spray vaccine to the U.S already and was on track and on time with the remaining 30 million; a reported scarcity of sprayers won't affect it. And GlaxoSmithKline chief Andrew Witty said "yield is improving" and that his company will be "at full pace by about four weeks or so from now."