China-focused Sinovac gets Beijing nod as one of four flu jab suppliers this season

China-focused Sinovac Biotech ($SVA) was named one of four companies selected to supply more than 1 million doses of flu vaccine to the Beijing government's seasonal prevention campaign in a further lift for domestic sourcing and a growing vaccine industry in the country.

The municipal government of Beijing has ordered a minimum of 1.2 million doses of the seasonal flu vaccine from four manufacturers for its 2015 campaign, Sinovac said in a release, noting that in 2014 a total of 1.37 million doses of the flu vaccine were administered and it supplied 400,000 doses.

Deliveries are slated to start this quarter.

Ramped-up flu vaccinations in Northern Hemisphere Asian nations are underway, with South Korea's SK Chemicals earlier this month announcing domestic sales of the country's first cell-culture flu vaccine, SKYCellflu, passed 1 million doses within two weeks of launch. Plans for sales abroad are also in the cards.

In Japan this month, AstraZeneca ($AZN) granted Daiichi Sankyo an exclusive license to market its FluMist Quadrivalent, a live attenuated vaccine, delivered nasally, that is pending regulatory approval.

Both growth prospects and competition across vaccine markets in Asia were cited by companies like Pfizer ($PFE) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) in second-quarter earnings calls as countries like South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia work to develop vaccine-manufacturing capabilities to meet regional demand and hold down costs by achieving scale.

In the case of SK Chemicals and the influenza vaccine, the aim is both domestic and international, the company said last month.

India's vaccines industry has achieved scale through massive domestic campaigns and with several companies serving as prequalified suppliers to World Health Organization (WHO) supported programs globally.

But in June, a Chinese flu vaccine manufactured by Hualan Biological Bacterin was prequalified, making it the second domestic vaccine to reach the status after a Japanese encephalitis approval in October 2013.

A WHO prequalification is an approval of safety and efficacy and means that United Nations procuring agencies can now source the vaccine and join a list of drugmakers such as GSK, Sanofi ($SNY), Novartis ($NVS) and South Korea's Green Cross, whose seasonal flu vaccines are also prequalified by the WHO.

Novartis, however, has divested its flu vaccine business to Australia's CSL.

In April, Sinovac laid out big R&D plans to test multiple candidates--one of which has the potential to challenge  Pfizer's Prevenar 13 after the U.S. drugmaker halted vaccine operations in the country following the failure to get a license renewal for its existing Prevenar shot.

Prevenar was the only pneumococcal conjugate vaccine approved for children under the age of 2 to prevent pneumococcal disease in China.

- here's the release