Making Swine Flu Vaccine Now Could Backfire

Move could cause global shortage of seasonal flu vaccines
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2009 7:34 AM CDT
Making Swine Flu Vaccine Now Could Backfire
This 2009 image taken through a microscope and provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, shows the H1N1 strain of the swine flu virus.    (AP Photo/Center for Disease Control and Prevention, C. S. Goldsmith and A. Balish)

The world's leading flu vaccine maker is on standby, ready to start cranking out a swine flu vaccine—but doing so might not be the smartest move, Carol Matlack writes in BusinessWeek. Vaccine makers can't shift or expand production easily, Matlack notes, meaning that a switch now could lead to a shortage of vaccines for seasonal flu—which already kills up to a million people worldwide every year.

The question of switching production—a swine flu vaccine could be ready in September if it started now—is " a very sensitive health question," the head of vaccine maker Sanofi said this week. The WHO is recommending makers stick with season flu for now, but still, Matlack writes, "if the global No. 1 manufacturer can’t mass-produce two vaccines at once, that’s worrisome." (More Sanofi Aventis stories.)

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