Sanofi-Aventis has signed a deal to supply Brazil with millions of doses of its investigational swine flu vaccine.

The French drugmaker’s Sanofi Pasteur unit has linked up with the country’s Butantan Institute to produce and supply an initial 18 million doses of vaccines against the new A(H1N1) influenza virus vaccine following an order from the Brazilian Health Ministry. The deal could be extended by 15 million doses if the World Health Organization asks drugmakers to switch production from the regular seasonal flu vaccine to the pandemic jab.

The A(H1N1) vaccine antigen bulk will be manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, which has two influenza drug production facilities, in Val de Reuil, France and in Swiftwater, Pennsylvania, USA. The Butantan Institute will formulate and package the vaccine and will distribute it. Dosage requirements will be determined later.

Sanofi Pasteur chief executive Wayne Pisano said his firm and the institute are “historical and successful partners who will bring a tailored response to public health needs in the context of pandemic influenza in Brazil”.