Shortage of swine flu vaccines expected in Netherlands

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One of the Swiss pharmaceutical companies producing the swine flu vaccines can only deliver half of the first batch of 20 million doses, says the Dutch health ministry.

The Hague – The Dutch health ministry said Tuesday Swiss drugs giant Novartis was behind on swine flu vaccine orders and would deliver less than half of the first batch of 20 million doses.

Novartis informed Dutch authorities last week that the first delivery, expected in late October, would not be as big as expected, the ministry said in a statement.

The company had also "informed the World Health Organisation that the yield of vaccines is lower than expected," it added.

"The Netherlands expects to receive less than half of the ordered number of doses with the first delivery" -- some six to 10 million doses, said the statement.

"Other countries are also having trouble with the late delivery of ordered vaccines."

In August, Dutch authorities said they would offer vaccinations to about five to six million people considered most at risk of complications from the A(H1N1) virus as of October.

These included people with cardiac or liver diseases, diabetes and immune deficiencies; women with health problems who are more than four months pregnant; and everybody aged over 60.

The group most at risk according to a list drawn up earlier will be vaccinated, but other groups may have to wait.

 People who get a flu jab every year will get the A(H1N1) vaccine as will those aged over 60.

The health council had recommended healthcare workers and people caring for weak patients to be vaccinated early, but it is now likely that they will have to wait a little longer.

Health Minister Ab Klink said Novartis would deliver vaccines proportionally; more for those countries that had ordered more.

"We (the Netherlands) will get a relatively big number because we ordered vaccines for the entire population in spring."

Novartis would not confirm or deny the statement.

"Novartis has been in continuous dialogue over the last months with governments, including the Dutch government, due to the low yield of the current seed strain received from WHO and the potential impact on delivery timelines and volume," said Novartis spokesman Eric Althoff.

"It is clear to governments that our H1N1 contracts are dependent on yields and we remain committed to our contractual obligations."

The Netherlands has ordered 34 million doses of swine flu vaccine, enough for two doses for each of its 16.5 million inhabitants.

The other supplier of the swine flu vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline, is delivering the vaccine as planned.

AFP / Radio Netherlands / Expatica

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