RALEIGH, N.C. — At
, officials are working to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration to sell a flu vaccine in the United States. The company makes one in Germany for 70 other countries, but not in this country.
"Quite frankly, the price of vaccines gets driven pretty low, so we just didn't see it as a significant commercial opportunity up until now," said Chris Viehbacher, president of GlaxoSmithKline.
Officials believe the lack of profitability caused the number of U.S. flu manufacturers to dwindle from 10 to two. Carmen Hooker Odom, secretary for the state Health and Human Services Department said that needs to change.
"It really is the tip of the iceberg of what we have to look at in terms of policies around these very fundamental kinds of vaccines," she said.
As North Carolina, for the first time, limits its inventory to high-risk groups, GlaxoSmithKline officials said even if it is given swift FDA approval, it does not have enough doses fill the void left when British vaccine maker Chiron was shut down.
The most GlaxoSmithKline has available right now is about 500,000 shots, which is barely enough to make a dent in what is needed across the country. The company said if it gets approval, it will be at least a year before it can offer a major supply. There is no word from the FDA on when approval might come.