Japan’s Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry stated this week that it expects the supply of vaccines needed should a new strain of influenza appear to fall short of what is needed for 25 million people in the 2013 year. This is a result of one of the country’s four manufacturers discontinuing their work due to a lack of government funding. The vaccines were intended to be given to people as common shots in the event of a new, easily spread flu virus.
The government’s original plan to have the 25 million stockpile ready by the end of 2013, however it now appears it will take at least an additional year. The health ministry says it will begin looking for a new manufacturer in order to fill the hole in production. In order to combat the outbreak of a new flu strain, the ministry wants to start work on developing new technologies that would be able to supply vaccines to as many as 130 million people. The four manufacturers involved in production were also tasked with improving facilities.
Clinical trail were scheduled to begin before April 2013, with the vaccines going on sale sometime afterwards. However, Osaka University‘s Research Foundation for Microbial Diseases, which is also helping with production, says it would not be possible to finish proper trials and ensure the vaccine’s effectiveness before the end of the current fiscal year. Should the vaccine shortage become an issue with an outbreak in the next year, the health ministry says it will rely on imports when needed.