Vaccine maker Chiron said that it will not be able to meet its minimum production goal of 18 million doses in time for the 2005-06 flu season, again citing difficulties at its plant in the UK. CEO Howard Pien made the admission in a talk with analysts Monday but would not provide any additional details, leaving the extent of the shortage unknown. The news comes at a time when health officials are trying to calm public anxiety about the avian flu in the face of increasingly disturbing news from Europe.
Exactly how much vaccine will now be available for this year's flu season is a matter of debate. One estimate suggests that 69 million doses of vaccine will be available, culled from various sources such as Sanofi-Aventis, MedImmune and GlaxoSmithKline. That compares with the 61 million doses available last year when contamination problems forced Chiron to cancel its entire vaccine shipment.
- see this article from the San Jose Mercury News