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Pandemic Flu Vaccine Is On The Way

The federal government on Tuesday approved four pandemic flu vaccines, saying each one triggers "robust" protection in most healthy adults within 10 days after a single dose, much like seasonal flu vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration said the vaccines designed to protect against the new H1N1 flu (swine flu) will be shipped to national distribution centers when the first lots arrive in about four weeks. Flu shots will then become available through a wide range of outlets that may differ by state, among them public health clinics, doctors' offices, schools, pharmacies and grocery stores.

Coming mere months after the development of the first seed virus in May, the announcement marks a milestone in efforts to blunt a pandemic that since April swept around the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports flu cases in every state but New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Flu was widespread in 11 states, most of them in the Southeast.

"The earlier we can get a safe and effective vaccine, the sooner we can protect people most at risk," said Jesse Goodman, the FDA's acting chief scientist.

The vaccines are made by CSL Limited, MedImmune LLC, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Limited, and Sanofi Pasteur.

Three can be given to children, Goodman said. CSL's vaccine is approved for children in Australia, but not yet in the USA. All but MedImmune's are approved for pregnant women, designated as a priority group for vaccination. MedImmune's is made with a live, weakened virus; live vaccines are not recommended during pregnancy. All inactive vaccines will have versions with thimerisol as well as versions without the preservative, the FDA said.

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