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Novartis rules out free swine flu vaccine

Following the completed production of the first batch of its Influenza A(H1N1) vaccine, Novartis has ruled out the possibility of a donation of the vaccine to the poor

Following last week's announcement that Novartis has successfully completed production of the first batch of its Influenza A(H1N1) vaccine and is close to completing manufacture of the first vaccine batch, the Swiss pharmaceuticals group has ruled out a donation of the vaccine to the poor, saying developing nations or donor nations should cover the costs.

The vaccine, which uses the reassortant seed — the modified virus provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to vaccine manufacturers in May, was produced at Novartis' plant in Marburg, Germany. 

The announcement was made following a press conference on June 11 in which Director-General of WHO, Dr Margaret Chan, raised the level of the influenza pandemic alert from phase 5 to phase 6. Dr Chan called for vaccine makers to show "solidarity" in offering vaccines to the poor.

According to chief executive, Daniel Vasella, Novartis will consider offering discounted pricing to low-income nations, but would not offer vaccines for free. The Financial Times reports that Mr Vasella estimates the price per dose to be £6-£9 ($10-$15) and more for smaller orders and those placed later.

This announcement came despite claims on the company's website that Novartis will continue to work alongside the World Health Organisation (WHO), US CDC, Pan American Health Organisations (PAHO), and other government agencies worldwide, as well as the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) on developing a strong and effective response to the A(H1N1) flu pandemic.

The Influenza A(H1N1) vaccine makes use of both cell-based vaccine production from the Novartis plant in Marburg and egg-based manufacturing from Liverpool (UK) and Siena (Italy) to increase the likelihood of the greatest possible supply. The vaccine is yet to be tested in humans.

15th June 2009

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