Are you sure?

Hungarian firm says may have flu vaccine by autumn

  A Hungarian biotechnology firm could be among the first in the world to produce a vaccine against the H1N1 virus, but will not export any before the local market is covered, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

Omninvest, one of the few independent companies in eastern Europe producing flu vaccines, expects to get a wild version of the virus from the United States shortly, spokesman Zsolt Németh told Reuters.

If paperwork is quickly out of the way, the firm, which was one of the first companies to produce a vaccine against bird flu, could have a vaccine by late summer or early autumn.

“We can begin producing the vaccine after the appropriate research and trial period, this will take about 8-12 weeks, but we hope to have (production) stated even sooner,” Németh said.

That could be faster than preparations elsewhere around the world, including the United States, where officials said the H1N1 vaccine would be available by the autumn.

Omninvest says it can produce 500,000 vaccines a week. There were no suspected or confirmed cases of swine flu in Hungary as of Tuesday morning, a spokesman at the Health Ministry told Reuters.

Omninvest has enough capacity to cover the country against the virus, commonly known as swine flu, in about 10 to 12 weeks, but it plans no capacity expansion, Németh said.

Exports could begin around November at the earliest. It is unclear how fast the epidemic is spreading. The World Health Organization has not declared an H1N1 pandemic.

Omninvest has already fielded calls from a variety of countries from eastern Europe and elsewhere, but Németh said it was premature to extend cooperation just yet. In the longer run, technology transfers were preferable, he added.

In any case, Omninvest will not be the only company producing swine flu vaccines. “There are currently more than a dozen vaccine manufacturers with licenses to produce influenza vaccines,” the WHO said in a statement.

“The vaccine strain will be available to each of them for vaccine production.” Németh said if the swine flu vaccine goes on to be exported, Omninvest would charge about HUF 1,000 ($4.75) per shot.

Only two drugs have been shown to have an effect on the virus, Tamiflu by Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche Holding, and Relenza, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, the world’s second largest drug maker. (Reuters)