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Vaccine makers struggle to speed output

Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2009

A new Novartis AG vaccine plant in North Carolina is supposed to boost the U.S.' ability to fight pandemics like the current swine-flu virus. But despite a ribbon-cutting Tuesday, it won't be pumping out flu shots for at least another two years. Nor will the plant's cutting-edge technology do much to solve one of the biggest problems vaccine makers have faced in churning out this year's swine-flu vaccine: a slow-growing virus. High-speed techniques that bypass the lengthy and onerous process of incubating viruses to make vaccine are years away. After more than five years and about $2 billion in government spending, the U.S. is still struggling to modernize and speed up production of vaccinations against deadly pandemics like swine flu. The system is undermined by a lack of manufacturing plants and by decades-old technology that takes six to nine months to make flu vaccine.