The UK is the latest European country to cancel orders of H1N1 flu vaccines as demand falls.

The UK government is looking to offload millions of doses of swine flu vaccine purchased when fears of a pandemic were at a high. Some 60 millon doses of GlaxoSmithKline’s Pandemrix and 30 million doses of Baxter International’s Celvapan were ordered in May last year, and to date 23.9 million doses and 5 million doses, respectively, have been delivered.
However the cases of swine flu in the UK have fallen significantly. Since the first cases were reported in April 2009 there have been 360 deaths and many of those people had underlying health conditions.

Given this scenario, the UK Government is looking at exercising a break clause in its contract with Baxter and while there is no such clause in the GSK deal, ministers are currently in discussions with the drugs giant about future supplies. David Salisbury, the Department of Health's director of immunisation, said that ”there are a number of options open to us”, including “selling vaccines or giving them away.”

He noted that “it is a work in progress, we are looking at all options”, adding that “if there were a UK resurgence during 2010 we would look very foolish if we had disposed of a valuable stockpile”. No offical numbers have been disclosed as to how much the vaccines are costing the UK, but reports claim the figure is around £100 million.

The UK’s move came days after France is looking to cancel 50 million of the 94 million doses it had ordered because of over-supply. Sanofi-Aventis’ vaccines unit said that it offered the French Ministry of Health at the end of 2009 to revise its H1N1 jab supply agreement from 28 million doses to 17 million doses, while a contract with Novartis has been reduced from 16 million doses to nine million.

Switzerland, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands are all reviewing their orders and have renegotiated or cancelled contracts. This will affect the revenues of the vaccine makers but not drastically seeing as sales in other territories seem to be holding up.