Zurich / Beijing: Drug maker Novartis AG on Thursday trumpeted the effectiveness of a single dose of its anti-swine flu vaccine, boosting hopes that potentially tight supplies could go further when mass immunization programmes start this month.
The outbreak of the H1N1 strain of flu, declared a pandemic on 11 June, has spread around the world and could eventually affect 2 billion people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates.
Fighting flu: Novartis headquarters in Switzerland. The firm said its H1N1 vaccine had a strong immune response after just one dose.
Many experts expected that two doses per person would be needed by health authorities preparing for a possible second wave of infections at the start of the northern hemisphere winter.
Vaccination is expected to get under way in some countries this month with many others starting in October.
Novartis said its H1N1 vaccine had a strong immune response after just one dose in a pilot trial, and Chinese health authorities gave a green light to Sinovac, which says its vaccine also needs only one shot to be effective. “First data is encouraging and indicates that should supply be limited due to low production yields, giving the population only one shot may be enough to provide protection from swine flu,” Vontobel analyst Andrew Weiss said of the Novartis shot.
Another key variable is vaccine yield in the manufacturing process. Yields were initially low but WHO said last month they were improving and one strain seemed to be yielding the same amount as seasonal vaccine.