Sanofi Pasteur pledged Monday to give 60 million doses of H5N1 influenza vaccine over 3 years to the World Health Organization (WHO) for a planned stockpile to help poor countries in the event of an influenza pandemic.
Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of French-based Sanofi-Aventis, is the second company to make a specific pledge for the WHO stockpile. A year ago, the United Kingdom’s GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) promised to provide 50 million doses of H5N1 vaccine. At two doses per person, the combined total of 110 million doses would be enough to vaccinate 55 million people.
“The H5N1 virus is currently circulating in some of the poorest regions of the world and an outbreak of pandemic influenza would most likely hit populations living in areas with limited access to vaccines,” said Wayne Pisano, Sanofi Pasteur’s president and CEO, in a news release. “This donation of H5N1 vaccine aims to address the needs of those most vulnerable populations.” Sanofi Pasteur makes an H5N1 vaccine that is being stockpiled by the US government. It became the world’s first licensed H5N1 vaccine when it was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in April 2007.
The European Union approved an H5N1 vaccine made by GSK last month. Sanofi did not say when it would turn over the first doses to the WHO. A month ago, the WHO reported that work on the stockpile was under way, but no doses had been acquired yet. In that report, the WHO said the contemplated uses of the stockpile were to help contain the initial, localized emergence of a potential H5N1 pandemic and to provide vaccine to countries that would have little access to it.
Besides Sanofi and GSK, Omnivest of Hungary and US-based Baxter have expressed a willingness to contribute to the stockpile. WHO member countries called for the establishment of a global H5N1 vaccine stockpile when they met for the World Health Assembly in May 2007. The idea of a global stockpile emerged after complaints by Indonesia and other developing countries about lack of access to commercial H5N1 vaccines.
In its news release, Sanofi said it is “committed to producing as many doses as possible of its most advanced vaccine in the shortest possible time frame should a pandemic be declared by WHO. Under such circumstances, Sanofi Pasteur’s seasonal influenza vaccine facilities would globally be able to switch to pandemic vaccine manufacturing.” (Cidrap)