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Sanofi Pasteur Says It Can Meet Vaccine Needs

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ Nine days after the recall of a crucial baby vaccine by one manufacturer, the only other U.S. supplier of the shots said Friday that it expects to be able to provide enough to cover U.S. demand for the first half of 2008.

However, Sanofi Pasteur officials could not say how many doses that would total, nor whether the company, part of Paris-based drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis SA, will be able to boost production of the Hib vaccine or shift some supply to the United States from the many other countries where it is sold.

The company said some doctors likely will still see sporadic shortages and that it is still determining how much supply it can provide for the second half of next year.

``Sanofi Pasteur still faces significant challenges in supplying Hib vaccine to meet demand,'' the company, which has its vaccine operations based in Swiftwater, Pa., said in a statement.

On Dec. 12, drugmaker Merck & Co. said it was recalling 1.2 million doses of the vaccine, which protects against Haemophilus influenza type B. The virus, which is different than seasonal flu, can cause meningitis, pneumonia and other serious infections, resulting in brain damage, deafness and death in some babies.

Merck recalled the 1.2 million doses and said it would not be able to supply any more until at least next fall because of a sterility problem at its West Point, Pa., manufacturing plant discovered in October. It also quarantined nearly a year's worth of other, possibly suspect doses, meaning nearly 2 years' worth of production will be discarded.

Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck said the chances of individual vaccines being contaminated were low and that at worst, a child would have experienced swelling and redness at the injection site.

But with Merck making half the U.S. supply of vaccine, fears of a prolonged shortage led to a crush of pediatricians trying to order it from Sanofi Pasteur, particularly those who saw their Hib vaccine stock wiped out by the recall. Sanofi Pasteur has been telling doctors to only order a reasonable monthly supply.

The vaccine is usually given in a two- or three-shot series, depending on the manufacturer, that starts at 2 months old. Those are followed by a booster shot at 12 to 15 months.

On Wednesday, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instructed doctors to defer giving the booster for the time being, as the American Academy of Pediatrics has advised its 60,000 members.

That change allowed Sanofi Pasteur to predict that its supply would cover demand through June.
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