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Health officials to swap all flu strains in new vaccine

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON Health officials that were part of a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee on Thursday decided to completely revamp next year’s influenza vaccine, according to published reports, in an effort to better protect patients from three strains not included in this year’s vaccine that have been responsible for a spike in flu-like illnesses this season.

Each year around this time, health officials make their best educated guesses as to which flu viruses may be present in the upcoming season and include three strains of flu virus in the vaccine to help protect people from getting sick. So the decision to wholeheartedly swap all three strains for three new strains is somewhat unusual, but may have been driven in part because of the lack of protection associated with this year’s vaccine.

The new vaccine formula will include protection against the H3N2 strain Brisbane/10, a prevalent strain this year not protected against in the current vaccine formulation. The other strains chosen were an H1N1 Brisbane/59 and a Type B/Florida strain.

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Safeway feels impact of generics

BY Doug Desjardins

PLEASANTON, Calif. Safeway reported another strong quarter but lower-than-expected same-store sales attributed in part to its pharmacies. The chain also confirmed it would start testing a new smaller-store format during the first half of the year.

The 1,743-store supermarket chain reported $301.1 million in earnings for its fourth quarter ended Dec. 29 with same-store sales increasing 4.4 percent but only 2.8 percent when gas sales were excluded. For the full year, Safeway generated a 15.7 percent increase in profits of $888 million and a 5.2 percent jump in total sales of $42.3 billion.

In a Feb. 21 earnings call with analysts, Safeway chief executive officer Steve Burd said pharmacy sales had an impact on sales that were positive but on the low end of expectations.

“Same-store sales were negatively impacted by an unprecedented switch over from branded to generic drugs,” said Burd. “And if you look at the other drug store chains, you’ve seen the same thing happening.”

Burd also confirmed that Safeway is preparing to test a smaller store format to combat the arrival of Tesco in its home state of California. “It’s going to be an experiment and, traditionally, we like to keep experiments close to the vest,” said Burd. “So we’re not releasing any information about the concept except to say we should have something out of the ground in the first half of the year.” Safeway is expected to open the first stores somewhere in Northern California near its corporate home.

Safeway also continued to expand in 2007, opening 20 new stores and remodeling 253 to its Lifestyle format.

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“Heart Health” screening offered at participating Safeway stores

BY Diana Alickaj

PLEASANTON, Calif. Safeway has announced that it will be holding free “Heart Health” screenings for customers.

The screenings are particularly used to measure blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index. They are also limited to the first 35 people that enter the supermarket, per store.

According to published reports, Safeway, who are manufacturer partners with Kellogg, Del Monte and Campbell Soup Co., will be offering these screening this week and next week.

Consumers wishing to find a participating store in this limited offer can visit www.safeway.com.

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