The British government today said it was cutting its swine flu vaccine deal with GlaxoSmithKline in a move that will see it pay two thirds of the original value, but receive just over a third of the doses.
In a mutually agreed deal, the Department of Health said the UK order with Glaxo would now be capped at 34.8 million doses, including those already received, out of a total original order of 90 million doses from the firm.
It said there would be no cancellation fee and said the new arrangement represented “fair value” and “significant savings”, but would not comment further on the difference between the cut in payments and doses received.
The new deal also includes an undertaking that the UK will purchase an as yet undefined amount of the H5N1 bird flu vaccine as well as courses of its anti-viral flu treatment Relenza.
The British Department of Health said while it had initially ordered enough of Glaxo’s Pandemrix vaccine for the whole population, further evidence on swine flu had persuaded experts that total vaccination was unnecessary.
The cap on the vaccine doses to be received from Glaxo represents stock that had already been produced for the UK and “could not reasonably retract”.
British Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: “I am pleased we have reached an agreement that is good value for the taxpayer and means that the department has retained a strategic stockpile to protect the UK population without incurring a cancellation fee.
“This both protects the public purse and ensures the UK remains at the forefront of pandemic preparedness worldwide.”
He added that the chances of a bird flu pandemic – which could be more severe than swine flu – have “not diminished.
The UK will now purchase bird flu vaccines to maintain a stockpile in case of any potential outbreak.
It will maintain a reserve of the swine flu vaccine in case a third wave of the virus appears and will also continue to immunise vulnerable patients like pregnant women.
It will also donate 3.8 million doses of the vaccine to the World Health Organisation for use in Africa ahead of its rainy season.
Simon Jose of Glaxo in the UK said: “Understanding of the H1N1 pandemic has significantly evolved since the declaration by the WHO last June and we recognise that governments’ needs and public health priorities are changing.
“We are committed to working with them to respond to their needs as the pandemic evolves and find appropriate and fair solutions.
“In line with these principles, we are pleased to have reached a settlement, which has been mutually agreed as representing fair value for the UK Government and for GSK.”
In addition to the Glaxo deal, the British government also ordered 36 million doses from another producer Baxter.
However, it said a break clause in the agreement and delivery times meant it could buy fewer doses and it eventually bought 9.2 million doses before cancelling the contract in February.