Flu vaccine yields are up, officials say

The H1N1 flu vaccine may be ready sooner than we thought. U.S. Officials say antigen yields have increased, and the first round of shots could be ready in September, rather than in mid-October, Bloomberg reports. Forty million doses will be up for grabs first, then another batch of 80 million.

Enough antigen for 20 million doses has been produced so far, said Robin Robinson, who heads up the U.S. agency in charge of acquiring vaccine. "We're starting to see for the first time increases in production yields--we're able to get a virus that grows well in eggs," Robinson said at a CDC vaccine meeting. "We want to be prepared for the worst-case scenario."

Meanwhile, the CDC was drawing up guidelines for treatment of pregnant women, who are more likely to be hospitalized or die with swine flu. Officials said pregnant women should be treated quickly with antivirals, and they should be among the first in line for vaccination. "The results of this meeting will kick planning into high gear," said Pascale Wortley of the CDC's Immunization Services Division, as quoted by the Washington Post. "This is a watershed moment."

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ALSO: GlaxoSmithKline is handing out antivirals to U.K. employees and their families in case they are needed, The Comet reports. "GSK has invoked its own internal pandemic preparedness plan, to ensure continuity of supply of all its critical medicines and vaccines," a spokesman told the paper. Report