First swine flu vaccine produced16th June 2009
European drug manufacturer Novartis AG has succeeded in making the first H1N1 swine flu vaccine.
Though the vaccine was not expected to emerge for several weeks, its early release was facilitated by the method used by researchers to cultivate the virus.
The company said that, while vaccines are usually produced in eggs, the new vaccine was produced in ordinary cells.
The announcement came one day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the start of the swine flu pandemic, the first such declaration since 1968.
WHO director Margaret Chan made the statement immediately after an international teleconference with influenza researchers.
Though the severity of swine flu may not increase, the declaration of a pandemic was triggered by the rapid spread of the virus across the Americas, Australia, Europe, and onto other places.
Novartis is currently still testing its first batch of the vaccine, which could be mass-produced on the order of millions of doses per week.
The US Department of Health and Human Services has already placed a US$289 million order for swine flu vaccines.
Chan said that the world is moving into the early days of its first influenza pandemic in the 21st century, and that the swine flu virus is now unstoppable.
However, Thomas Frieden, director of the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) said that there has been no change in the virus.
Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease said that the organisation has been responding as if it were a pandemic already.
She said that the declaration means that countries where there have not been any recorded cases of the flu need to prepare for its arrival.
Kathleen Sebelius, US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, said that the declaration reminds the world that flu viruses like H1N1 need to be taken seriously.
She said that, although people have not seen large numbers of severe cases in the US, things could possibly be very different in the fall, especially if things change in the Southern Hemisphere.
The US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that the decision to declare a state of pandemic comes as no surprise, and that people should prepare for a possible return in the fall.
She said that the Obama Administration has been working to keep the American people safe.
The Hong Kong flu of 1968 is recorded to have killed about 1 million people.
Ordinary seasonal flu kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people annually.
The H1N1 swine flu virus will return to the northern hemisphere at the beginning of winter 2009.
However, it is not possible to predict whether or not the virus will change during that time.
Pascal James Imperato, dean of public health at the State University of New York's Downstate Medical Center, said that a World Health Organisation level 6 alert states that H1N1 infections are now worldwide in distribution, is a declaration of the extent of geographic spread, and not a statement of severity of the clinical disease.
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Title: First swine flu vaccine produced
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 11783
Date Added: 16th Jun 2009