• Scholarly report

Influenza vaccine economics. Issue brief

In the fall of 2004, the United States experienced a severe shortage of influenza vaccine when Chiron, a manufacturer that had pledged to provide 46 to 48 million doses of the vaccine to the U.S. market, was forced by U.S. and U.K. regulators to suspend production due to possible bacterial contamination in its Liverpool, England, plant. The loss of Chiron’s 46 million doses reduced the number of influenza vaccines available in the United States to approximately half the amount anticipated. Sanofi Pasteur had been expected to supply approximately 54 million doses, and MedImmune intended to provide about 1.1 million doses of its FluMist vaccine, which is licensed for use in healthy persons 5 to 49 years of age (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2004). Following the announcement of Chiron’s lost vaccine production, Sanofi Pasteur and MedImmune increased production, ultimately producing approximately 58 million and 3 million doses, respectively (U.S. Influenza Supply, 2005).

This issue brief summarizes factors affecting the supply of influenza vaccine to the U.S. market and possible strategies to reduce or eliminate future vaccine shortages. In the next section, we provide some context for our discussion by describing recent changes in the influenza vaccine industry and in regulatory requirements for vaccine production. Section 3 contains a description of the influenza vaccine industry and factors affecting the profitability of vaccine production compared to production of other biologic products or pharmaceuticals. In Section 4, we consider factors affecting the decisions of individual suppliers about the amount of influenza vaccine to produce in a given year. In Section 5, we discuss possible strategies to prevent future shortages of influenza vaccine.


Honeycutt, A., Robinson, T., & Layton, C. (2005). Influenza vaccine economics. Issue brief. (Prepared for Office of Science and Data Policy, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC). Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI International.