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The Food and Drug Administration approved a new U.S. site to make cell-based flu vaccine Tuesday, saying it will add 50 million doses to the domestic capacity for making shots. The plant in Holly Springs, North Carolina, is owned by Novartis but it got a healthy shot in the arm with $487 million in investments by the U.S. government. The Health and Human Services Department considers U.S.-made flu vaccines an important defense against both seasonal influenza and any pandemics of new flu.
The vaccine, called Flucelvax, is made using dog cells cultured in the lab. The plant will use technology that allows it to respond to an emerging health threat like a pandemic in weeks, not months, said Elizabeth Power, a spokeswoman for Novartis. Health officials have been looking to expand capacity to make flu vaccines quickly. Much of the U.S. flu vaccine supply is made in other countries, and that gives the FDA less control over quality and supply.