* Baxter has orders from 5 countries for 80 mln doses
* Will allocate portion of production for WHO use
* Other vaccine makers still taking orders (Adds Sanofi, Glaxo, Novartis, MedImmune comment)
By Bill Berkrot
NEW YORK, July 16 (Reuters) - While at least 50 governments have placed orders or are negotiating with drug companies for supplies of flu vaccine against the fast-spreading H1N1 strain, the lone U.S.-based maker has already taken on as much as it can handle.
Baxter International Inc (BAX.N) said on Thursday it has taken orders from five countries, including Britain, Ireland and New Zealand, for a total of 80 million doses of H1N1 vaccine and will not take any more.
“At this time we’re not in a position to take additional orders,” Baxter spokesman Chris Bona said.
However, Bona said the company has agreed to allocate a portion of its commercial production to the World Health Organization to address global public health issues.
The Illinois-based company said it should be ready to ship H1N1 vaccine by the end of July or early August. Oddly enough, the United States will not be a beneficiary of the Baxter-made vaccine as it has not received Food and Drug Administration approval.
The other four companies producing the vaccine are all European based drugmakers — GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK.L), Novartis AG NOVN.VX, Sanofi-Aventis SA (SASY.PA) and AstraZeneca (AZN.L), through its MedImmune unit.
Sanofi said it would supply vaccine to the United States and had this week taken a $61 million order from the government on top of a previous $190 million U.S. order.
But Sanofi spokesman Len Lavenda said he could not immediately comment on whether the company is taking more orders.
MedImmune said it too would supply H1N1 vaccine to the United States and had so far taken two orders totaling $151 million.
“We anticipate that we may get some additional orders and are able to fill those,” said MedImmune spokeswoman Karen Lancaster.
The company expects to be able to produce at least 40 million finished doses of its intranasal vaccine formulation.
Glaxo spokesman Kevin Colgan said the Britain-based drugmaker has taken H1N1 vaccine orders and continues to have discussions with governments on other potential orders.
Glaxo and Sanofi both said they would have a better idea of production needs and manufacturing capacity after they come up with test batches of their vaccines and test it on people.
Swiss-based Novartis said earlier Thursday that it had secured several orders for H1N1 vaccines and is in talks with more than 35 governments.
“The company is doing everything it can to produce as much as possible as fast as possible,” said Sarah Coles, a spokeswoman for Novartis. “In fact, all three of our sites in Europe are in full production of H1N1.”
The World Health Organization said up to 4.9 billion doses could be produced in 12 months for the pandemic it has called unstoppable. But if more than one shot per person is needed and production yields are lower than for seasonal flu vaccine, far fewer people would have access to protection, WHO said. (Reporting by Bill Berkrot and Ransdell Pierson; editing by Carol Bishopric)