The United States is facing a certain shortage of flu
vaccine after Britain temporarily suspended a company’s license to produce the
Chiron, which makes between 46 million and 48 million doses
of vaccine for use in the United States, announced recently that the British
Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency had revoked its flu vaccine
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, the U.S. had planned to have 100 million doses available, with Chiron
producing almost half of it. The agency anticipates that 56 million doses made
by two other companies will still be available here.
Last year, 87 million people in the United States received
Meanwhile, U.S. officials are working on a contingency plan.
“Our immediate focus will be on making sure that the supply we
do have reaches those who are most vulnerable,” Health and Human Services
officials said in a news release. “The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention is convening its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to
prioritize its recommendations on who should get the flu vaccine for this season
based on the new vaccine supply information.”
U.S. officials are also checking to see if companies such as
Aventis can make more vaccine for this year this late in the process.
Chiron did not say why its license was revoked, and U.S.
officials indicated they were seeking more detailed information. Meanwhile, the
company did hint at reasons in a statement.
The company said in a news release that the British agency “asserted that Chiron’s manufacturing process does not comply with UK Good
Manufacturing Practices regulations.”
“Our manufacturing and quality staff have worked hard to
resolve what we viewed as a problem limited in scope to a few batches, and we
believe our quality assurance confirmatory testing demonstrates that the
Fluvirin doses we anticipate releasing are safe,” John Lamber, president of
Chiron Vaccines, said in a statement.
– By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor