Major flu vaccine maker may not be ready again next season

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Federal health officials are already discussing new plans for getting enough flu vaccine next fall since it is unclear whether vaccine maker Chiron will be able to restart production in time.

"It's going to be a close call for Chiron," said National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Anthony Fauci.

Chiron was disqualified in October from shipping more than 40 million doses of the vaccine to the United States due to contamination. The company currently is one of just two producers of traditional vaccines for the U.S.

The U.S.'s other supplier, France-based Aventis Pasteur, has said it could increase production to 75 million doses next season, from this year's 56 million, if Chiron fails to pass inspections in February or March. Officials for Canada-based ID Biomedical said their company could supply 8 million to 12 million traditional flu vaccine doses, while the makers of FluMist, which recently was approved for healthy non-risk populations only, said they could supply up to 10 million doses.

Each year, the flu contributes to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans, most of them seniors.