Thursday, Nov. 4

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New Mexico joins Illinois to secure
flu vaccine from Europe for
highest risk residents    
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Governors issue call for expedited approval from Food and Drug Administration

[NOV. 4, 2004]  CHICAGO -- Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico today joined forces with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in securing hundreds of thousands of doses of flu vaccine from Europe to protect elderly, young and sick residents in their states.

"The FDA told us that they are committed to working with Illinois to evaluate the flu vaccine we've secured so people who need it most can get it as soon as possible," said Gov. Blagojevich. "We have answered all of the FDA's questions and are eagerly awaiting their approval. If the French-made Aventis vaccine is approved quickly, almost 400,000 of the most vulnerable residents of Illinois and New Mexico will get the important flu shot they need to avoid what could be a serious, even deadly, battle with the virus."

"This innovative partnership will allow us to give flu shots to the majority of our most vulnerable citizens, and I urge the FDA to move quickly to approve this supply of vaccine," said Gov. Bill Richardson. "At the same time, I believe the federal government must take action to ensure adequate supplies of flu vaccine for the United States in the future. There must be a contingency plan so states don't have to scramble for limited vaccine and leave many citizens unprotected."

More than a week ago, Gov. Blagojevich asked the Food and Drug Administration for quick approval to ship nearly 300,000 doses of flu vaccine from Europe to use for Illinoisans at critical risk. The vaccine secured by both states is made in Lyon, France, by Aventis Pasteur, the same company that makes the only flu vaccine currently being used in the United States.

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Last Friday, Gov. Blagojevich's representatives met with FDA officials to provide information about the labeling, movement and storage of the French-made Aventis Pasteur vaccine and the state's plans for distributing the vaccine to its highest risk populations. Illinois' representatives also provided information about the licensed British wholesaler Ecosse, which has facilitated the vaccine purchases.

If the FDA approves the governors' request, New Mexico will import 100,000 doses of Aventis vaccine in addition to Illinois' 300,000.

The United States is facing a severe flu vaccine shortage as a result of problems found with doses produced by Chiron Corp., a manufacturer that was expected to produce nearly half of the 100 million doses needed for U.S. residents. Now the FDA is looking for alternative supplies to help supplement the 55 million doses of vaccine manufactured by its other supplier, Aventis Pasteur. The agency recently announced that it is investigating the safety of nearly 5 million doses of vaccine made by two different companies in Germany and Canada that could be ready in December. The vaccine secured by Illinois and New Mexico is already packaged and ready to be shipped within hours.

The governors are hosting a conference call for the media at noon today to outline their plans for obtaining flu vaccine from Europe.

[News release from the governor's office]

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