Us fears that in case of an epidemic of bird flu there would be insufficient supply of vaccine to protect the people of America. Hence it has asked the drug companies to come up with vaccines that would serve the Americans in case of an emergency. It has roped in 5 companies to solve the problem. They have been given $1 billion contract to come up with better influenza vaccines. GlaxoSmithKline was awarded $274.75 million, MedImmune ($169.46 million), Novartis Vaccines ($220.51 million), Computer Sciences Corp., unit DynPort Vaccine Co., working with Baxter International ($40.97 million) and Solvay Pharmaceuticals won $298.59 million.
The companies will work to develop cell based-vaccines to fight seasonal influenza or a pandemic strain. The interesting fact is that the new vaccines will be grown in labs in batches of cells called cell cultures and not on older, egg-based systems. The target is both the annual seasonal flu, and the H5N1 avian influenza spreading among birds. Experts fear that before the H5N1 strain mutates in to a form which can be easily transmissible it has to be fought using a vaccine. Leavitt said the goal is to have enough vaccine for every American within six months after a pandemic is declared. All the sudden increase in the development of vaccine against avian flu is that if countries acted to keep vaccine supplies for their own citizens during a pandemic, vaccines might not be available for Americans. Sanofi Pasteur has also received a contract of $97 million for the development of a cell-based vaccine.