Dutch government sells off vaccine facility
The Dutch government has put the manufacturing activities and capacity of the Netherlands Vaccine Institute in Bilthoven up for sale, following a decision to cease “the production of vaccines under public ownership”.
The Institute has been involved in supplying vaccines to the Dutch population for decades, but a change in policy at the Netherlands Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport means that it will now be carried out by the private sector.
“Contract manufacturing for third parties is within the scope of activities up for sale”, said the Ministry in a statement.
The decision spells the end of one of the last remaining public vaccine facilities around the world, with governments now finding it more cost-effective to buy vaccines on the open market than maintain and operate their own production capacity.
Other functions of the Netherlands Vaccine Institute (NVI), such as vaccine procurement, warehousing, distribution and vaccine R&D have already been transferred away from the Bilthoven facility and incorporated into the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). Prior to the transfer the unit employed around 450 people and had an annual turnover of around 80 million euros ($110 million).
The move represents something of a turnabout for the NVI, which was established in January 2003 as the result of the merger between the government-run vaccine production unit, SVM, and the vaccine division of the RIVM.
The Bilthoven site produces biopharmaceutical products such as viral and bacterial vaccines, and currently manufactures a range of vaccines, including inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) as bulk or final product, BCG vaccines used in after-surgery treatment of bladder cancer, combination diphtheria-tetanus-polio (DTP) vaccines and tetanus toxoid (Ttox) vaccines used in the vaccination of children and adults.
At its height around six million vaccine doses were made at the NVI each year for the Netherlands’ national immunisation programme, including three million influenza vaccines.
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