The chief executive of Protein Sciences announced Wednesday a major distribution agreement that will put the Meriden drug company's influenza vaccine in hundreds of more locations across the United States.
Passport Health has agreed to make Flublok available to people through its more than 230 clinics nationwide and to employers that arrange their vaccination clinics through the company.
Manon Cox, president and chief executive of Protein Sciences, said in an interview that the company hopes to distribute 350,000 doses of its relatively new Flublok vaccine this year, after introducing the drug late into the flu season last year and only sending out 35,000 doses.
The number is still a small slice of the more than 130 million doses distributed throughout the United States last year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Cox said she hopes for another round of tenfold growth to occur next year.
"We have focused on the last few months to create access points" for Flublok, Cox said. "It's relatively new and isn't easy to get on the shelf at pharmacies."
The Protein Sciences vaccine is produced differently from traditional flu vaccines that are developed by injecting the virus into fertilized chicken eggs that are then harvested for certain proteins. Instead, the company makes a genetic copy of the virus, and from that makes large quantities of the influenza virus protein, the main ingredient of most inactivated flu vaccines.
When approving the drug for use by people 18 to 49 years old, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called Protein Sciences' technique a "technological advance" that could lead to "faster start-up of the vaccine manufacturing process."
Cox said Wednesday that she expects the FDA to approve the drug for use by people 50 and older in the next few weeks.