France’s Sanofi-Aventis says that its Sanofi Pasteur subsidiary has completed the shipment of 50 million doses of its Fluzone influenza vaccine to the US market.

The company added that it has now fulfilled its original production plans for the 2006-7 season, and will continue to manufacture approximately 3-4 million more doses this year for delivery in December. It currently supplies 40% of the USA’s injectable influenza vaccines.

Sanofi Pasteur noted that construction began on a new influenza vaccine production facility in Swiftwater, Pennsylvania, in July 2005, that will more than double the company’s US capacity. The new plant is expected to come online for the 2008-9 influenza season.

US health officials are encouraging more Americans to be vaccinated in order to reduce the 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalisations from yearly flu outbreaks. Drugmakers are expecting to produce about 115 million doses for the US market, which represents a rise of over 40% on last year’s figures.