Oct 19, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Chiron Corp. said this week its influenza vaccine production this year probably will be lower than the previous estimate of 18 million to 26 million doses, but officials wouldn't predict how much lower.
The company said production has been delayed by the process of correcting problems at its vaccine plant in Liverpool, England, where contamination last year forced the firm to cancel the shipment of 48 million doses to the United States.
"At this point we're out of time," Chiron spokeswoman Alison Marquiss in Emeryville, Calif., told CIDRAP News today. "Looking ahead, we're not 100% sure what our total number will be, but more likely than not it'll be below the range we put out in July."
This week the company began shipping its first 1.5 million doses to US customers since the contamination problems surfaced last October.
In an Oct 17 conference call with stock analysts, a transcript of which the company provided, Chiron CEO Howard Pien said the firm's production season has been "partial and truncated." Remediation steps at the Liverpool plant delayed the start of production, and the task of adapting to new procedures lowered output once production got under way, he explained.
Pien gave no specific estimate of how many doses Chiron will produce this year. "We will supply a meaningful amount of doses to the US market, but it would most likely be fewer than the 18 million doses we spoke about in July," he said.
In response to questions, Pien said the plant's production has not been hampered by any contamination problems. But he said some doses have been rejected in the company's own quality-assurance process.
Pien predicted that Chiron will be able to produce about 40 million doses of flu vaccine in 2006, which is expected to be a full-production season.
With Chiron's previous estimate of 18 million to 26 million doses, federal health officials had expected a US flu vaccine supply this season of about 89 million to 97 million doses. The expected contributions from other vaccine makers include 60 million doses from Sanofi Pasteur, 8 million from GlaxoSmithKline, and 3 million from MedImmune, for a total of 71 million. After the loss of Chiron's doses last year, a total of about 60 million doses were produced for the US market.