German states are sitting on large stockpiles of unrequired vaccineImage: AP
January 7, 2010
The German states came to an agreement with swine flu vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) on Thursday to cancel their orders, after public demand failed to materialize.
The individual German states, who are managing the German supplies of the H1N1 vaccine, ordered 50 million doses in July 2009, when the epidemic threatened to overrun the country, but public demand has been low as the virus spread more slowly than expected during autumn and winter.
On top of this, recent medical tests have shown that a single dose is sufficient to protect against the illness, rather than the two initially prescribed. As a result, the states have been forced to keep substantial stockpiles of the excess vaccine doses, which they have tried to sell to other European countries.
The states made a deal on Thursday in Berlin with pharmaceutical giant GSK, which allowed the regional governments not to take delivery of the main part of the outstanding order.
According to Mechthild Ross-Luttmann, head of the conference of Germany's health ministers, the states received "signals of goodwill" from GSK that would halt the delivery of the "larger part" of the unneeded vaccine.
GSK said that the talks had been carried out in a "spirit of partnership in an effort to find a constructive and fair solution." Neither party would describe the details of the deal, as the relevant ministers and government bodies are still to give their approval, but the states are likely to make substantial savings.
The production costs of the 50 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine amount to 416.5 million euros ($596 million), according to the Health Ministry of Lower Saxony, while each individual dose costs 8.33 euros.
This week, the French government also cancelled the delivery of 50 million doses of the 94 million it had ordered from the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Pasteur.