Swine flu news roundup

There's new information on swine flu and the companies racing to produce vaccines everyday. Here's a roundup of recent announcements.

  • GlaxoSmithKline announced that in the past two weeks it has received orders from 9 more governments, for a total of 96 million additional vaccine units. The drugmaker is now committed to meet 25 requests for 291 million H1N1 vaccines--and is still in talks with other governments. Analysts estimate GSK's contracts are worth $1.5 billion, and preorders could reach $3 billion if contracts continue to roll in as they have. The drugmaker has said it will begin shipping vaccine in September. But despite what it calls  "rapid progress," unlike its counterparts, GSK has yet to begin testing its vaccine and the company tells the Press Association it is unsure how quickly its vaccine can be produced to fulfill its orders.

  • Novartis has kick-started its clinic trials. The Swiss drugmaker is testing 6,000 people of all ages in Britain, Germany and the United States. The trial is expected to last a year, but the vaccine will likely be on the market before the study is complete.

  • China's Sinovac Biotech has also begun testing its vaccine. The clinical trial involves a total of 1,614 volunteers of all ages. The Beijing government has preordered 4 million doses that are expected to be delivered in September.

  • The U.S. government continues to outline its plans for flu season vaccinations. Not surprisingly, a CDC panel has recommended that pregnant women, health care workers and children six months and older be first in line for swine flu vaccinations. Parents, caregivers, high-risk adults and those aged 19 to 24 were also suggested to be among the first to be vaccinated. According to the panel, the elderly are not included among the priority groups because they have been largely unaffected by the virus. Immunization campaigns targeting the elderly are likely to focus on the seasonal flu vaccine as they are much more susceptible to the seasonal flu.

  • Public health authorities say that Merck's pneumonia vax Pneumovax may help limit swine flu related deaths as one-third of H1N1 related deaths are due to complications from pnuemonia. The vaccine offers protection for up to 10 years.

- here's the AP article on Novartis
- read more on GSK here and here on GSK
- check out the report on the CDC
- here's the Sinovac release
- more  on the Pneumovax debate