As the H1N1 swine flu settles in and sickens large populations around the world, pharmaceutical companies operating in the vaccination space are reporting large-scale demand from governments worldwide. Baxter International on Thursday announced that it has been contracted to supply 80 million H1N1 vaccination doses for the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand alone.
Last week, the UK announced its intention to vaccinate its total population - a large endeavor and one that reflects the impact the H1N1 virus is having on the country.
"Baxter's ability to participate in the market for vaccines for the flu strain, also known as swine flu, will be dictated by its production capabilities," The Wall Street Journal reported
. "The company won't come close to delivering this year on the 80 million doses ordered, noted [Baxter CEO, Robert] Parkinson, who described 'yield optimization' as a challenge."
These issues of production scale raise alarming points on the pharmaceutical sector's ability to deliver H1N1 vaccinations worldwide. The combined populations of the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand represent a very small fraction of humanity at large. The United States has contracts with four separate vaccine providers.
But the elephants in the room - in terms of production scale - remain Asia and Africa, where the H1N1 pandemic may have lasting impact. The Asian and African continents offer broad opportunities for the swine flu bug to intermingle with endemic diseases that have long plagued the region's populations.
According to WSJ, "Baxter announced in mid-June that it had launched full-scale production of a commercial vaccine for H1N1 based on a cell-based method it says may allow for faster production and delivery than traditional production methods that rely on chicken eggs."
Baxter's CEO told The Wall Street Journal that limited quantities of bulk batches should be available by early August.