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Vaccine maker receives swine flu seed


16 in the U.S. have died; more than 14,000 around world sickened

A fourth person in Arizona and six more in Mexico have died from complications of swine flu —pushing the world’s death toll to 108 — just as the world's largest vaccine maker announced it has received the key ingredient to make an H1N1 vaccine.

Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of French pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis SA said the seed virus provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allows it to begin a development process, expected to take about two weeks, in preparation for industrial production of the vaccine.

Sanofi Pasteur said it will be prepared to begin mass production “as soon as directed by public health agencies.” But it will likely take months to make the first batches of the vaccine.

“As a company committed to protecting human health, Sanofi Pasteur looks forward to quickly understanding how this virus performs in a vaccine manufacturing environment and developing a working seed that will enable large-production,” said Wayne Pisano, president and CEO of Sanofi Pasteur.

WHO has not yet asked vaccine makers to start making a swine flu vaccine, as the decision means gambling that the world needs swine flu vaccine more than regular flu vaccine. Most vaccine producers can only make one kind of vaccine at a time. Some experts wonder if a swine flu vaccine is needed, since the virus is relatively mild and most patients don’t need treatment.

The global swine flu tally has surpassed 14,000 cases. The Arizona death pushed the total number of fatalities linked to the virus to 16 in the U.S. Arizona Department of Health Services spokeswoman Laura Oxley confirmed on Wednesday the death of a girl from Pima County. The county did not give her age but said the child was not yet in her teens.

In Mexico the Health Department says the epidemic has largely subsided, but the confirmed toll has been rising as scientists test a backlog from patients.

The deaths reported Wednesday pushed the total number of fatalities linked to the virus to 16 in the U.S., 89 in Mexico, two in Canada and one in Costa Rica.

The virus has sickened more than 13,000 people.

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