September 2, 2005

U.S. CDC predicts 97 million flu shots for fall

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As many as 97 million influenza
shots will be available in the U.S. market for the upcoming flu
season starting in October, the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention said on Thursday.

It said with the addition of GlaxoSmithKline as a supplier,
there were now four companies providing the vaccines to the
United States, but some prioritization of who gets the shots
will still be required.

"However, because of the uncertainties regarding production
of influenza vaccine, the exact number of available doses and
timing of vaccine distribution for the 2005-06 influenza season
remain unknown," the CDC said in its weekly report on disease
and death.

Last year, Chiron lost its manufacturing license because of
contamination at its British manufacturing plant, and half the
anticipated U.S. supply was lost. Long queues formed to get
vaccine and health officials scrambled to get about 60 million
doses from other suppliers.

The CDC says 185 million Americans should get a flu shot
every year but fewer than half that number ever do.

The CDC said this year that the first people to get
vaccinated should be children aged 6 months to 23 months,
pregnant women, health-care personnel who provide direct
patient care, household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of
infants under the age of 6 months.

"Beginning October 24, 2005, all persons will be eligible
for vaccination," the CDC said in a statement.

"Sanofi Pasteur, Inc. projects production of 60 million
doses of (vaccine). Chiron Corporation projects production of
18 to 26 million doses," the CDC said.

"GlaxoSmithKline,Inc., whose license application was
approved by the Food and Drug Administration on August 31,
2005, projects production of 8 million doses of (vaccine).
MedImmune Vaccines, Inc., producer of live attenuated influenza
vaccine, projects production of approximately 3 million doses."

MedImmune's vaccine is taken via a sprayer, not injected.
It is not approved for very young children or the ill.

Influenza kills an estimated 36,000 Americans and puts
200,000 in the hospital in an average year. Because the virus
constantly changes, the vaccine must be reformulated and made
fresh every year, and the process is uncertain and fraught with

The annual flu vaccine provides no protection against the
H5N1 avian flu spreading in Asia, which has killed more than 50
people and which health officials fear may jump into humans.
Work is underway on developing an testing an H5N1 vaccine.