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First Batch of Swine Flu Vaccine Already Here: Company
Date:6/12/2009

Announcement comes a day after WHO declared H1N1 a pandemic

FRIDAY, June 12 (HealthDay News) -- European drug maker Novartis AG announced Friday that it has successfully produced the first batch of H1N1 swine flu vaccine, weeks earlier than had been expected.

The shortened production schedule was made possible because the vaccine was produced in cells, rather than the egg-based method typically used for vaccines, the company said.

The announcement comes a day after the World Health Organization declared the first flu pandemic since 1968, triggered by the rapid spread of the H1N1 virus across North America, Australia, South America, Europe and regions beyond.

According to the Associated Press, Novartis says it is using this first batch for evaluation and testing, prior to its use in people, and it is also being considered for use in clinical trials. Millions of doses of the vaccine might be produced weekly, the company said. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had already placed a $289 million order for swine flu vaccine with Novartis in May, the AP said.

On Thursday, WHO director Dr. Margaret Chan made the much-anticipated announcement that swine flu had now reached pandemic status. She did so immediately after an emergency teleconference with flu experts from a number of countries.

"The world is moving into the early days of its first influenza pandemic in the 21st century," Chan said in Geneva, according to the Associated Press. "The [swine flu] virus is now unstoppable."

The declaration pushes the WHO alert status on the outbreak from phase 5, where it had remained for weeks, to the highest level, phase 6, as the number of swine flu cases hit close to 30,000 in the United States, Europe, South America and Australia.

The rapid spread of cases in Australia, where they rose by more than 1,000 on Monday, appeared to fit a key criteria for d
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