GlaxoSmithKline, the UK’s largest pharmaceutical company, has received an order for 60m swine flu vaccines from the UK Government.
The company, which already manufactures one of the key anti-viral treatments for the virus, Relenza, has also received millions of orders from other European governments including France.
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GSK, led by chief executive Andrew Witty, said it expects to manufacture a vaccine for the H1N1 strain as soon as a virus seed is made available by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The first doses are expected to be available four to six months later, subject to regulatory approval.
Alan Johnson, the UK Health Secretary, said: “This virus has the potential to become a pandemic and we can’t predict how serious that would be. We have an opportunity to secure vaccine in advance of a pandemic wave.”
GSK already has in place the structure for the vaccine after developing a similar product for bird flu. The company, as one of the largest drug companies in the world, has significant manufacturing capacity and has been in talks with US authorities and the WHO about the support it can offer.
The company indicated it is ready to link up with other companies and governmental agencies as part of the development process.
Production of the seasonal flu virus will continue and GSK will also convert its intended donation to the WHO for developing countries from 50m H5N1 vaccines to the new H1N1 adjuvanted influenza vaccine once production begins.
The UK Government has also ordered 30m vaccines from US drug company Baxter International.
By Graham Ruddick
Last Updated: 3:03PM BST 15 May 2009
Source: The Telegraph