Vasella warns countries not to break vax contracts

The departing CEO of Novartis has a word of warning for countries that are clamoring to cancel huge shipments of swine flu vaccine: Keep up your end of the bargain today, he says, or expect some significant trouble laying your hands on vaccine supplies the next time you find yourself facing a pandemic.

"The same governments that exerted a lot of pressure on the industry (...) to deliver vaccines very quickly were the same governments that then said 'we don't want any more what we ordered', once they saw they ordered too much," Daniel Vasella told AFP. "If you want an effective vaccine industry you have to be consequent, because the next time that there will be a pandemic--and there will be another one--the governments who have been reliable partners will be treated preferentially."

A number of countries, including France, have been struggling to deal with stockpiles of unused swine flu vaccine after the pandemic turned out to be much milder than was originally feared. Vasella says the vaccine it "delivered has to be kept and has to be paid. Outstanding orders are a different story. One should be flexible."

None of that may be welcomed by countries trying to decide what to do with unused vaccine. France ordered enough for all 60 million citizens and ended up using less than 10 percent of it. Germany wants to cut its order for 50 million doses in half and the Netherlands is trying to market a 19-million dose order it no longer wants.

- here's the AFP report