North Carolina pharmaceutical company to produce bird flu vaccines

HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. (WNCN) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Thursday a third human case of bird flu related to the ongoing virus outbreak in dairy cows. With cases on the rise, a local pharmaceutical company is making doses for a bird flu vaccine with money from the U.S. government.

CSL Seqirus will make nearly five million doses of bird flu vaccines. The company said this is about prevention, so shots will go to people most at risk.

The company, which has a site in Holly Springs, already makes over 55 million doses of flu shots a year. Those go out across the U.S. and Europe. They are adding 4.8 million doses of bird flu vaccines as part of an ongoing contract with the government.

“What we will do is we’ll take the antigen that we’ve manufactured, we’ll convert that into finished doses and we’ll make that readily available to be distributed at the direction of the U.S. government,” VP of manufacturing and site director Jon Kegerise said.

The CDC has confirmed just a handful of human cases of bird flu connected to an outbreak of the virus in dairy cows. Kegerise said these vaccines will go to people with the most risk of contracting bird flu.

“Those at greater risk are those that are directly interfacing with animals or birds that are infected with avian flu,” he said.

Kegerise said the risk of a widespread outbreak of bird flu in humans is still quite low.

“It’s absolutely a prevention response versus a pandemic response,” he said.

Still, he said having doses ready to go, of any type of flu, means they are prepared.

“Helps us to prepare and be ready to respond for very high volumes should a pandemic of influenza be declared,” he said.

Seqirus is also working on clinical studies for bird flu doses, testing how safe and effective vaccines are for different strains of the virus.

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