Date Published: 6 April 2010

Deal reached on UK surplus pandemic vaccine

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

The Department of Health and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) today announced that they have reached an agreement on the Department’s outstanding orders of swine flu vaccine resulting in significant savings for the Government.

The final settlement was mutually agreed as representing fair value for the UK Government and the manufacturer and means savings of around a third of the original value of the total orders with GSK.

As part of measures taken to protect the UK population from swine flu, the Government ordered sufficient vaccine to protect the entire population if needed. As evidence about the swine flu virus developed, experts advised that vaccinating the entire population would no longer be necessary.

In light of this advice, the Department entered negotiations to reduce the orders for the Pandemrix vaccine produced by GSK. The Government also cancelled the contract with Baxter for swine flu vaccine on 28 February 2010.

Under the agreement announced today, the UK order with GSK has been capped at 34.8 million doses, including those already received. This represents stock that the manufacturer had produced for the UK, and could not reasonably retract. There will be no cancellation fee.

Vaccine that hasn’t been used will be kept as a strategic reserve in case the virus causes a third wave of illness. The Government will also continue to immunise remaining patients in priority groups, such as pregnant women, who remain at risk from the virus. The Government intends to donate 3.8 million doses of vaccine to the World Health Organization to boost immunity in Africa before the rainy season.

In addition to limiting the H1N1 vaccine to be delivered, the Department will receive other GSK products. These products will be H5N1 “bird flu” vaccine and courses of the antiviral Relenza to replace the amount used during the swine flu outbreak.

Swine flu has reached its lowest level in the UK since the pandemic began but it is essential to remain vigilant and prepared in case it re-emerges in the UK. In addition, a “bird flu” pandemic remains just as likely as before the current pandemic and it is prudent that the UK maintains a stockpile of vaccine that is licensed and ready to use. The Department will purchase H5NI ‘bird flu’ vaccine and courses of the antiviral Relenza as part of the agreement.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham, said:

This deal means the UK will save approximately one third of the original value of the orders with GSK. I am pleased we have reached an agreement that is good value for the taxpayer and means that the Department has retained a strategic stockpile to protect the UK population without incurring a cancellation fee. This both protects the public purse and ensures the UK remains at the forefront of pandemic preparedness worldwide.

The probability of a “bird flu” pandemic, which is likely to be more severe than swine flu, has not diminished.

This agreement means we are ready if a “bird flu” pandemic occured, and allows us to maintain our status as one of the most prepared countries in the world.

 

Source: UK Dept Health (Government Dept).

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