Chinese vaccine manufacturer, Sinovac has the first government-approved H1N1 vaccine in its possession, and now stands to make a killing in exports. Mexico has already ordered 10 million doses, according to a recent report in China Daily. And Wednesday, mere days after receiving federal approval to produce the vaccine, Sinovac announced a distribution deal with the South Korean pharmacetuical company Boryung. But while Sinovac may be on the verge of huge profits, is it also capable of producing enough vaccine to supply China's 1.3 billion people?
Unlike some of the Western H1N1 vaccines being tested, Sinovac's H1N1 vaccine reportedly works as a single-dose treatment, which eases the production burden somewhat. Still, Sinovac is only capable of producing 30 million doses within the next year, according to the AP, which is hardly enough to cover China's own needs. At least three other Chinese manufacturers are expected to release H1N1 vaccines in the next few months, and it's unclear what their combined yield will be. But it seems highly unlikely that they'll reach the 1 billion mark. Ergo, the fact that Sinovac has already started making arrangements to export their vaccine is surprising, says David Kelvin, a senior scientist at the Univeristy Health Network in Toronto who has worked extensively in China.
Ultimately, the Chinese government decides how many doses to keep domestically, a Sinovac rep told the Wall Street Journal. As of late August, China has reported over 3,500 cases of swine flu, none fatal, but the number of cases is expected to rise this fall. The government has already closed a school in Henan province after 80 students were said to be infected with the H1N1 virus.