Due to regulation and the market power of governments in buying flu shots, much of the profiitability has been taken out of the flu vaccine industry, leaving consumers of flu shots in the US market to rely heavily on a few manufacturers. One of those manufacturers is Chiron. The cause of last year' flu shot shortage was due to problems experienced at Chiron.
It's another year and we have another supply disruption due to problems at Chiron's Liverpool (England) plant:
Delays in the distribution of influenza vaccine made by Chiron are leading to spot shortages and complaints by doctors and clinics who may not get their doses for a while longer.
... Production for this year was delayed because Chiron had to make changes to fix those problems. The company says it will have shipped 5 million doses by today but will not say how many it will produce this season. The other three makers of flu vaccine for the U.S. market have shipped more than 54 million doses, according to press releases and data from the Centers for Disease Control.
The problem that arose last year was due to sterility issues in Chiron's production process. Now, we'd rather not have our vaccines produced in an unsterile environment. But then again, we'd also like to have flu vaccines.
In a more competitive market, there are other companies who are flexible enough to take up the slack when one firm goes down. Not only this, the competition puts added discipline on firms to not let supply disruptions happen in the first place. After all, if you mess up and can't take care of your customers, somebody else will.