Hong Kong might not get the swine flu vaccine it wants this year because the government may have left its ordering too late. Yesterday the government gazetted its call for tenders for the manufacture of five million does of vaccine against the A(H1N1) influenza virus, but, according to one leading pharmacist, many of the world's larger nations have already placed their orders, leaving Hong Kong far down the pecking order. The government's tender call has a deadline of August 7. But the vice-president of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists, William Chui Chun-ming, said the chances of Hong Kong obtaining the vaccine it wanted were slim. 'We have acted rather too late,' Mr Chui said, adding that he had recently contacted Novartis, Sanofi-aventis and GlaxoSmithKline, three major vaccine manufacturers. 'As far as I know, Novartis stopped accepting orders last week. GlaxoSmithKline will not accept new orders either,' Mr Chui said. 'So we are competing with the population of the whole world. The bargaining power of Hong Kong is tiny. The number of vaccines we asked for is almost nothing in the eyes of these manufacturers. 'It is not about money. Other places have already signed contracts with the vaccine manufacturers. The United States, the United Kingdom, many European countries and Asian places, including Japan, have already been lined up with manufacturers for quite a while.' The Post tried to contact the three pharmaceutical companies yesterday. Two could not be contacted but a spokeswoman for Novartis' Hong Kong office said: 'We have just seen the tender details. We have to contact our headquarters in Basel before deciding the next move.' A Food and Health Bureau spokeswoman said it was too early to estimate [when a vaccine might be available]. 'We have just started the tendering process,' she said. On Monday, the government said its aim was to start vaccinations as early as December.