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Triangle Vaccine Plant Approved to Cover Possible Flu Pandemics

A vaccine plant in the Triangle has been recognized by the federal government as a facility ready to react to a flu outbreak. It's the first such distinction for a pharmaceutical company in the country. Doctors at the Novartis plant in Holly Springs say they can produce a large amount of vaccines at a quicker rate. Doctor Vas Narasimhan is the president of Novartis USA. He says the facility uses cell cultures to develop the vaccine rather than the tradition cultivation of the virus in chicken eggs.

Vas Narasimhan: "The government, if needed, could declare an Emergency Use Authorization. The site is designed to produce 150 million doses within six months of a declaration of a pandemic. So that's about 25 percent of the estimated needs for the U.S. population."
The plant opened two years ago with the U.S. Health and Human Services Department covering about half of the $1 billion cost. Narashimhan says Novartis is also seeking FDA approval for a seasonal flu vaccine.

Will Michaels is WUNC's General Assignment Reporter and fill-in host for "Morning Edition"
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