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    Novartis begins shipping flu vaccine doses

    Swiss drug maker Novartis AG said that it has begun shipment of its seasonal influenza vaccines to customers in the US market for the 2014-2015 season.

    The company has much of its vaccine operations in Cambridge, where it has more than 2,000 employees, including about 350 in its vaccines businesses.

    Novartis said it plans to ship a minimum of 30 million doses of vaccines Flucelvax and Fluvirin to the US market in advance of the peak of influenza season.

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    In April, Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline PLC announced plans to swap their vaccines and cancer drug franchises in a complicated series of deals. When that transaction closes, something expected to happen in the first half of 2015, it could spell changes for Novartis operations in Cambridge.

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    Under one deal, Novartis would sell the bulk of its Cambridge-based vaccines business to GSK for $7.1 billion, potentially giving the British company a foothold in the Boston area.

    At that time, Novartis also said that it would initiate a process to invite bids to sell the influenza component of its vaccines business separately as part of a plan to maximize shareholder value.

    Cambridge is also home to the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. The institutes, which won’t be affected by the proposed deals with GSK, engage in research in the areas of oncology, ophthalmology, and cardiovascular and metabolic related diseases.

    Chris Reidy

    Chris Reidy can be reached at reidy@globe.com.