News Feature | July 8, 2014

Novartis Begins Flu Vaccine Shipments To U.S. For 2014-2015 Season

By Estel Grace Masangkay

Last week, Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis announced that it has initiated shipment of its seasonal influenza vaccines to the U.S. market for the 2014-2015 flu season. The company said it plans to ship a minimum of 30 million doses of its vaccines Fluvirin and Flucelvax.

Fluvirin (Influenza Virus Vaccine) is an inactivated flu virus vaccine indicated for immunization against flu virus subtypes A and type B. The production of the vaccine is based on the traditional egg method. Flucelvax (Influenza Virus Vaccine) is similar to Fluvirin in indication but differs in its production as it is based on cell culture. Flucelvax does not contain any preservatives or antibiotics.

Brent MacGregor, President of U.S. Vaccines and Head of Region North America, said, “Our vaccines are scheduled to be available in time to begin use prior to the start of the influenza season.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), yearly vaccination remains as the best way to help people avoid the flu. “Seasonal influenza is a major public health concern that can lead to hospitalization and even death. The CDC recommends annual seasonal influenza vaccination as the best way to help protect against this potentially serious disease,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine and preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Novartis runs a majority of its vaccine operations in its facilities in Cambridge. Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted approval to Novartis’ manufacturing site in Holly Springs, N.C. The site, which produces cell-culture based flu vaccines, is the first of its kind to receive approval in the U.S. The Holly Springs facility has been part of efforts by the federal government to prepare for possible pandemics, against which traditional egg-based flu vaccine production faces serious time and scale constraints. The site was also used to produce a cell-based vaccine candidate for immunization against the H7N9 avian influenza virus following the facility’s opening in late 2011.