Faced with their first pandemic in four decades, health officials around the globe are scrambling to line up big supplies of a new vaccine in what is shaping up as a multibillion-dollar windfall for the world's biggest manufacturers.
The French government has ordered 94 million doses of swine flu vaccine--enough to vaccinate three-quarters of the country's population. The French inked contracts--which total $1.4 billion--with Sanofi-Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis. Sanofi Pasteur is estimating that it will have the first supplies of a new swine flu vaccine ready for delivery in four to six months.
And France is far from the only country to lay the foundation for a mass vaccination campaign as soon as supplies arrive. The UK is considering hiring private contractors to help doctors in the country's national health service to administer the jab. Peter Holden, who represents the British Medical Association, says doctors and nurses need to be ready to administer vaccines to 30 to 40 people an hour.
While far more mild than originally feared, swine flu has nevertheless roiled populations around the globe, with each new death raising fresh fears. Those fears in turn have spurred government agencies to come up with new vaccination campaigns as a new flu season in the northern hemisphere looms.