Big challenge looms over swine flu vax production

Armed with large federal subsidies and a strong desire to exchange the old, egg-based vaccine production method with something far more efficient, vaccine makers have been moving closer to a new cell-based system. But despite years of hard work, the cell-based approach will not be perfected in time to provide the vaccine supplies that could be needed to fight a bird flu pandemic.

Some federal authorities tell the New York Times' Andrew Pollack that it would take until late November or January to make enough vaccine--that's 600 million doses--to guard the entire population of the U.S.

But that doesn't mean that major progress hasn't been made in vaccine production. Five years ago a significant vaccine shortage developed at a time when the U.S. only had two suppliers. Now it has five, and they're ready to get to work provided health officials give them a green light to switch from seasonal flu vaccine production to a swine flu jab.

But if the world ends up tussling over global vaccine supplies, that system may no longer work as planned. Only one of this country's suppliers, Sanofi-Aventis, manufactures vaccines in the United States.

"The bottom line is there won't be enough vaccine quickly enough and the vaccine will largely go to the countries that already produce the vaccine," says pandemic expert Dr. David Fedson, as producing countries will restrict exports to guard their own populations first.

- read the article in the New York Times