Australia inked orders for 21 million doses of swine flu vaccine from CSL as it set the stage for the world's first mass vax campaign to get underway in a matter of weeks. The first shipment of two million doses will go out next week with pregnant women, the chronically ill and health workers at the front of the line.
"I think it's anticipated by the middle or end of September we will be starting to vaccinate the priority groups that, of course, are the most vulnerable," said Health Minister Nicola Roxon. Australia has confirmed more than 32,000 cases of swine flu with 121 deaths. Health officials plan to be ready to start the jabs once interim human data is in hand.
"We don't have any preexisting immunity, with the exception of the elderly who might have a bit, so the vaccine will hopefully halt the spread," Lorena Brown, an immunology professor at the University of Melbourne, tells Bloomberg.
Anyone looking for more signs of the kind of windfall that swine flu has proven for vaccine makers need look no further than CSL's annual report, which went out earlier this week. The Australian company reported that its profits had skyrocketed 63 percent, with new flu vaccine orders swelling its bottom line. Swine flu vaccine sales are expected to hit $300 million Australian this year.
ALSO: Greece, The Netherlands, Canada and Israel have ordered enough double doses of swine flu vaccine to inoculate their entire populations. "Pandemic vaccine orders put in by northern hemisphere countries stand at over one billion," a World Health Organization spokesperson told AFP. There's growing skepticism, though, that the world's manufacturers will be able to fill all those orders. Report