Pentagon expects to get 50,000 doses of FluMist

Vaccine maker reverses decision not to grant any

October 16, 2004|By William Patalon III | William Patalon III,SUN STAFF

Just days after the U.S. military was shut out in its bid to obtain a quarter-million doses of FluMist flu vaccine, MedImmune Inc. has reversed the decision of its distributor and will supply the Pentagon with the nasal spray inoculation.

"We are working to supply the military, as we are working with all government agencies, in light of the current urgency," Jamie Lacey, spokeswoman for the Gaithersburg-based MedImmune, said yesterday.

Lacey declined to say how many doses MedImmune would supply, but Defense Department officials said they expected to receive 50,000 doses of FluMist - far less than they had first sought, but still a major boost to tight supplies.

Earlier this week, GIV, a subsidiary of MedImmune's key U.S. distributor Henry Schein Inc., had rejected the Philadelphia-based Defense Supply Center's emergency request for 250,000 doses of FluMist, Defense Department officials said.

The Pentagon made the request after British authorities cut off shipments of Chiron Inc.'s flu vaccine because of safety concerns at its Liverpool plant - nearly halving the U.S. supply of flu shots.

All told, Chiron had been expected to supply more than 46 million flu shots to the United States in advance of the looming flu season, including about 2.7 million to the military.

Demand for FluMist has soared as a result of the disruption. But MedImmune readied just 1.1 million doses in its initial production run this year, after the vaccine's dismal performance during its debut last year.

When the depth of the flu-vaccine shortage became clear, MedImmune quickly announced it would produce nearly another 1 million doses from an existing batch of vaccine.

Shipments of the initial 1.1 million doses started last week; the 50,000 FluMist doses headed for the U.S. armed forces will come from that supply, Defense Department officials said. The next batch of 1 million doses is expected to become available in late November or early December.

MedImmune shares closed yesterday at $26.32, up 10 cents.

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