WASHINGTON—The U.S. government has placed the first of what is expected to be a series of orders to Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of the sanofi-aventis Group, to commence production of a vaccine to help protect against the new influenza A(H1N1) virus.
This order from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was issued pursuant to an existing pandemic stockpile contract between Sanofi Pasteur and the U.S. government that allows HHS to purchase vaccines for viruses with pandemic potential. In addition to this initial HHS order, the company is in discussions with other governments to address their needs for A(H1N1) vaccine.
The HHS order provides for the production of the bulk vaccine and related activities. The dosage requirements for the new vaccine are yet to be determined and will be based on clinical trials, which could begin as early as August. Final formulation, filling and distribution of the vaccine also have not been established at this time. The order is in the amount of $190 million.
"This initial order for A(H1N1) vaccine received today under our existing contract is part of a major effort by Sanofi Pasteur to support global public health efforts to prepare the world for the possibility of an influenza pandemic," said Wayne Pisano, president and CEO of Sanofi Pasteur. "Production of a new vaccine is not a simple task and there are a number of necessary and complex steps that must be taken before a vaccine can be made available to the public, but we have experience on our side. Previously, we developed and licensed the first pre-pandemic vaccine for H5N1 and we look forward to further demonstrating our experience and expertise in vaccine development as we prepare for this new threat from A(H1N1)."
Sanofi Pasteur is awaiting receipt of the seed virus to be used for vaccine production from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Once the seed is received, Sanofi Pasteur will begin development efforts to prepare a working seed for vaccine production. Sanofi Pasteur is prepared to commence commercial scale production in June following certification of the working seed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The company currently estimates it will have the first bulk concentrate vaccine in a few months. However, the company will be better able to determine the timing once the seed virus is received and development of working seed is underway.
Sanofi Pasteur operates influenza vaccine production facilities in Swiftwater, Pa., and in Val de Reuil, France. Production of the new A(H1N1) vaccine for HHS will initially occur in Sanofi Pasteur's recently licensed influenza vaccine production facility in Swiftwater. Once ongoing seasonal influenza production concludes in the second facility in Swiftwater, A(H1N1) vaccine production can occur in both Swiftwater facilities.
"Our philosophy is to maintain flexibility in our influenza vaccine production, to enable us to answer public health needs wherever they are," said Pisano. "We know that seasonal influenza remains a global threat, and in many countries, especially developing countries, H5N1 is still a greater threat than A(H1N1). To this end, we continue our active discussions with WHO and governments around the world to ensure the accessibility of our life-saving vaccines to the greatest number of people."