GSK under fire for delay of new vax program

GlaxoSmithKline made a splash in the media several months ago when it joined with Pfizer and announced that it would supply 30 million doses of vaccine each year to protect children in developing nations. Working through the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, the program relied on an innovative new financing approach that was designed to help get vaccines to the people who needed them most, saving millions of lives and going a long way to help repair Big Pharma's tarnished image.

However, the Guardian has revealed that when GSK made the commitment it was already under orders from the World Health Organization to do additional testing on its vaccine, Synflorix. The jab guards babies against pneumonia, meningitis and other diseases, and GSK planned to deliver it in vials that contain two doses. A provider uses a needle to draw half the vaccine for one person and then uses another needle to draw the second shot, which GSK felt was the most efficient strategy. But the WHO wants to be sure that approach can work in Africa, where additional training is required. The extra testing is likely to delay GSK's delivery until 2012, potentially at the cost of many lives.

Now sources at GSK are telling the Guardian that the pharma company has been stung by criticism of its vaccine strategy and the delay in delivery. The financing is provided by the Advanced Market Commitment program, which is funded by GAVI, the UK, Canada, Russia, Norway, Italy and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The AMC is guaranteeing the funds to buy the vaccine, which is helping big groups like GSK ramp up the production capacity needed to supply hundreds of millions of shots over a period of 10 years.

- here's the report from the Guardian

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