WHO Predicts Flu-Vaccine Production Will Double by 2015

Jul 28, 2011

The global production of seasonal influenza vaccine will double to 1.7 billion doses by 2015, according to a presentation given by Marie-Paule Kieny, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) assistant director general for innovation, information, evidence, and research. Kieny spoke at the WHO’s first review of its Global Action Plan (GAP) for Influenza Vaccines on July 12–14, 2011. New manufacturers in 11 developing countries, including Brazil, India, Iran, Mexico, and Vietnam, will be producing vaccines by that time, according to the presentation.

Under the GAP initiative, WHO provided the 11 developing countries with financial and technical assistance to improve their influenza-vaccine manufacturing capabilities. Of these countries, six have produced clinical lots of pandemic vaccine, four have completed pandemic-vaccine clinical trials, and three have licensed pandemic vaccine for human use, according to Kieny’s presentation.

“The estimate is by 2015, if all projects that are currently going on get to successful implementation, we would have something around 1.7 billion doses of seasonal vaccine,” Kieny told Reuters after the GAP review. “What we are continuing to do is to make sure that not only will there be more pandemic vaccine if need be, but also that the sites where these vaccines will be produced will be more diverse geographically and more populations of the world will have earlier access to pandemic vaccine,” she added.

In the event of a new influenza pandemic, the world’s projected 37 vaccine makers potentially could triple their annual production of trivalent seasonal vaccine to make 5.4 billion doses, the agency told Reuters. However, even with the projected expansion, multinational capacity will be insufficient to provide developing countries with pandemic vaccine in a timely manner, according to Kieny’s presentation.

During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009–2010, observers criticized WHO for distributing vaccines in poor countries too slowly. Others raised concerns that the pharmaceutical industry had unduly influenced the organization’s decisions. The Council of Europe held a hearing in January 2010 to address concerns over WHO’s reaction to the pandemic. At the hearing, Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s special adviser on pandemic influenza, denied that WHO’s response to the pandemic had been improperly influenced and expressed confidence in the scientific validity of the body’s decision making.