The World Health Organization is not expected to make a recommendation on producing a vaccine against the novel H1N1 influenza virus until next week, but GlaxoSmithKline said Friday that it would begin work on a vaccine as soon as it received a supply of the virus from the agency.
Health officials have been cautious about production of a vaccine against the so-called swine flu for fear it would interfere with production of the normal seasonal influenza vaccine.
But Glaxo officials said they would complete their production of this year’s seasonal vaccine in July and could immediately switch to producing the new vaccine. The vaccine would be available four to six months after the company receives the virus seed stock.
The company has received tentative orders for 60 million doses from Britain, 50 million from France, 12.3 million from Belgium and 5.3 million from Finland. Glaxo said it would donate 50 million doses to the WHO for developing countries. Once production has increased, the company added, it will sell the vaccine to such countries at a reduced price.
It will manufacture the vaccine using a newly developed adjuvant -- or booster -- that should allow it to use smaller quantities of virus in the vaccine, thereby increasing production potential.
As of Friday, there were 4,714 confirmed H1N1 cases in the U.S. in 46 states plus the District of Columbia, and five confirmed deaths. The fifth victim, a 33-year-old man in Texas, died earlier but was reported Friday as having had H1N1. Globally, the WHO reported 7,520 confirmed infections in 35 countries.