Chiron Increased Fluvirin Influenza Vaccine Production for U.S. Market by Approximately 50 Percent Over 2002-2003 Flu Season


EMERYVILLE, Calif. -- Chiron Corporation today announced that it increased production of its Fluvirin flu vaccine for the U.S. 2003-2004 flu season to 38 million doses, approximately 50 percent more than the previous flu season. Through production gains from planned efficiency measures during the production cycle, the company supplied 13 million additional doses of Fluvirin to U.S. distributors over last season.

Chiron has sold all of its Fluvirin doses, utilizing its expanded network of specialty vaccine distributors to handle the increased shipments. Chiron believes there is currently a limited quantity of vaccine available in the distribution chain. Given the current high demand for flu vaccine, Chiron is also working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assess the possibility of using extra production material to supply an additional 400,000 Fluvirin doses.

"Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to protect human health, and its role is growing as health authorities and the general public become increasingly aware of its value," said Howard Pien, Chiron president and CEO. "Globally, our flu vaccines have reached tens of millions of people this year, protecting both healthy and high-risk populations as the flu season intensifies. Continued investment in our production capacity will allow us to increase our impact on human health."

In total, Chiron produced 75 million doses of its four brands of flu vaccine for the global market, with production in Liverpool, United Kingdom; Marburg, Germany; and Rosia, Italy. Chiron's Liverpool facility produced more than 40 million doses of Fluvirin for the 2003-2004 flu season. Starting at the beginning of August and continuing through early November, the company shipped approximately 90 percent of its Fluvirin doses to the United States. The U.S. flu season, during which flu viruses are circulating in the population, typically begins in November. This year, health officials at the CDC urged all patient segments, especially healthcare workers and those at high risk, to receive their vaccinations early, in October or November.

"Chiron is investing to support expanded CDC flu vaccination goals and guidelines," said John Lambert, president of Chiron Vaccines. "Our capital expansion program will improve infrastructure to further increase current, egg-based flu vaccine production capacity. Our development program for next-generation flu manufacturing technologies, namely cell-culture-derived flu vaccines, will enter Phase III studies in 2004."

About 10 to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts flu each year. Vaccination not only decreases the risk of illness for the vaccine recipient, but also helps prevent the spread of the flu virus and limits its role in the potential development of life-threatening complications. In an average year in the United States, flu kills 36,000 people, primarily in the over-65 population, and hospitalizes 114,000 people.

Influenza (flu), a contagious disease caused by the influenza virus, affects the respiratory tract, often resulting in symptoms in the nose, throat and lungs, as well as fever, headache, tiredness and body aches. It can also lead to complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or sinus and ear infections or exacerbate chronic conditions. In the Northern Hemisphere, flu season typically begins in November and peaks between December and March.

Flu vaccination provides protection from flu within about two weeks of administration and may last for as long as a year. The vaccine's high efficacy protects up to 80 percent of vaccinated people from contracting flu, and vaccinated people who do contract flu generally develop milder cases than unvaccinated people. Flu vaccines, the majority of which are made from inactivated (killed) flu strains, are updated each year to address changes in the viruses. People who are allergic to eggs, who have had a severe reaction to a flu shot in the past, or who have previously developed Guillain-Barre syndrome in the six weeks after receiving a flu vaccination should consult their doctors before receiving flu vaccination.

Chiron Vaccines is the world's second-largest flu vaccines company, with four leading brands. Fluvirin is a triple-antigen flu vaccine, approved for sale in more than two dozen countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, and a number of countries in Europe and the Southern Hemisphere. Outside the United States, Chiron Vaccines markets Agrippal S1, Begrivac and Fluad flu vaccines.

Source: Chiron Corporation

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