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H1N1 Vaccine to Be Available in U.S. Earlier Than Anticipated

September 14, 2009

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on Sunday that the H1N1 (swine) flu vaccine will be available in the U.S. earlier than previously anticipated, the Wall Street Journal reports. "We are on track to have an ample supply rolling out by mid-October, but we may have some early vaccine as early as the first full week in October. And we plan to get the vaccine rolling out the door as fast as it hits the production line," Sebelius said (Davis, 9/13). 

As soon as the vaccine is available, Sebelius said that it will be sent to designated locales around the country, adding, "Every state has a plan saying these are the sites to get the vaccine as quickly as possible into people's arms. That's where the distribution will go," the Associated Press reports (9/13). She said the earliest available doses will be used for high-priority groups, including health care workers, VOA News reports (9/13).

On Friday, officials announced that "U.S. studies found a 15-microgram dose of vaccine made by Sanofi Pasteur produced a protective immune response in 96 percent of adults aged 18 to 64 and in 56 percent of adults aged 65 and older," the Washington Post reports. Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, "This is very good news. If you needed two doses, that would be a major strain on vaccine supplies nationally and globally" (Stein, 9/11).

According to the Los Angeles Times, Fauci also said "no significant adverse events whatsoever" have been indicated in any of the trials, adding, "We're seeing the kinds of things you would expect, swelling and redness at the injection site that is not clinically significant. There are no red flags on safety in any of these trials" (Maugh, 9/12).

Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal reports on Indian vaccine maker Serum Institute's assertion that it will be able to sell an H1N1 vaccine at a fraction of the cost of those made by Western drug companies. Serum's vaccine "is undergoing animal testing now, is expected to enter human trials within a month" (Gupta, 9/14).

G7 Vows to Help Developing Countries, Reaches Agreement With Mexico on Vaccine Priority Groups

Health care workers, pregnant women and people living with high-risk health conditions will receive priority status in H1N1 vaccine efforts, according to an agreement reached on Friday by the G7 and Mexico, the Associated Press reports. The meeting focused on handling the H1N1 epidemic in the Northern hemisphere. Canada, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Britain and the U.S. -- as well as the European Union at the meeting "unanimously agreed" to help developing nations combat the virus (Brand, 9/12).

The Wall Street Journal examines how H1N1 is affecting health care workers in Argentina (Moffett, 9/14). 

WHO Updates Death Toll, Releases Statement on School Closures

On Friday, the WHO said the H1N1 death toll has reached at least 3,205 people, Agence France-Presse reports. "Most of the deaths occurred in the Americas region, where 2,467 fatalities have been reported to the U.N. health agency. The Asia-Pacific region recorded 527 deaths, followed by Europe where at least 125 people have succumbed to the infection. The death toll in the Middle East reached 51 while the number of deaths in Africa climbed to 35, said the WHO in an update posted on its website" (9/12).

Reuters reports that in a statement released on Friday, the WHO said "[c]losing schools at the start of an H1N1 flu outbreak can greatly slow its spread and buy time to build up drug stocks." In order to have any effect on slowing the spread of H1N1, the closures would have to be made, "ideally before 1 percent of the population falls ill," according to the statement (Nebehay, 9/11).

The Canadian Press reports that the statement "neither encouraged or discouraged use of this measure" and said the agency "could not offer advice on the issue that would be useful in all settings, saying national and local authorities are best situated to make these kinds of calls" (Branswell, 9/12).

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