By John Murawski,
HOLLY SPRINGS – Pharmaceutical giant Novartis on Monday declared its $1 billion vaccine production plant, the first such facility of its kind, ready to inoculate Americans against the next global pandemic outbreak.
The sprawling laboratory is more than four years in the making. It is designed to supply emergency vaccine to one in every four U.S. residents during a pandemic, an event so unusual that only four have swept the globe in the past century, most recently in 2009.
The facility produced its first three batches of pandemic flu vaccine last week, about 6.5 million doses of the watery-looking stuff in pre-dosed glass vials ready for injection, all designated for the U.S. emergency stockpile.
It’s the nation’s first mass-scale plant that makes vaccines from animal-cell culture rather than chicken eggs – a considerable advantage if an avian flu outbreak were to kill off the chickens that lay the eggs needed to make vaccines, said Vas Narasimhan, president of Novartis Vaccines USA, based in Massachusetts.