Although we are waiting eagerly for the first H1N1 vaccine to hit the market, it seems production of the vaccine will be much less than the original estimates. According to a warning from the World Health Organization (WHO), supply will be much less than anticipated earlier, especially with the winter season approaching in the northern hemisphere. Per initial estimates from October onwards, about 94 million doses of vaccine could have been manufactured by the pharmaceutical companies, but this target has already been slashed by 50-75% due to poorer than expected yield from the virus strains.

Almost 25 pharmaceutical companies are racing against time to bring the vaccine to the market. Among these the top five which include, Sanofi-Pasteur of France (the vaccine arm of Sanofi-Aventis, SNY), AstraZeneca (AZN), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Baxter (BAX), and Novartis (NVS) are likely to contribute almost 80% of the total production.

Baxter and Novartis are seeking approval to market vaccines made from cell-based cultures, which have better yields than the traditional method of growing viruses in chicken eggs. In a major breakthrough, China-based Sinovac Biotech (SVA) announced that clinical trials have shown the effectiveness of its new vaccine in a single shot whereas earlier it was assumed that two doses per person would be required. This means more people can be vaccinated. The vaccine is expected to be available within a short time from Baxter as the company declared the completion of production of the first batch of the cell-based vaccine Celvapan. On receiving approval from the concerned health authorities, the company will be able to commence shipment. GlaxoSmithKline intends to begin its shipments in late September while Sanofi-Pasteur expects to begin production by year end.

The vaccine market has emerged as one of the most lucrative segments for pharmaceutical companies. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 13% during 2009-2012. The H1N1 pandemic should fuel further growth in this segment.

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Read the full analyst report on “GSK”
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Read the full analyst report on “NVS”
Read the full analyst report on “SVA”
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