Public Health

CDC Taking Orders Next Week For Swine Flu Vaccine

The first batches of swine flu vaccine — between six million and seven million doses — should start trickling into U.S. clinics within a couple of weeks federal health officials said Friday. More vaccine will soon follow, said Dr. Thomas Friedman, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But Friedman cautions that getting the stuff distributed to the right people is, at least initially, "going to be a little bumpy."

The first swine flu doses shipped will be the nasal version, not injections. i i

The first swine flu doses shipped will be the nasal version, not injections. istockphoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption istockphoto.com
The first swine flu doses shipped will be the nasal version, not injections.

The first swine flu doses shipped will be the nasal version, not injections.

istockphoto.com

Recent tests suggest the vaccine is a good match to the pandemic strain of flu that's already circulating in all 50 states.

And though children under ten are still likely to need a double dose, there's good evidence that a single dose of vaccine should be "quite protective for everybody age 10 and above," Frieden said.

That's the good news.
But actually getting the 250 million doses of the vaccine that the U.S. has purchased from five different manufacturers into the arms and noses of everybody who needs protection still presents "enormous logistical challenges," Frieden said.

In contrast to the usual flu season, when health care providers typically vaccinate 100 million people over the course of four months, this year's pandemic requires adding to that task an extra 250 million doses of swine flu vaccine, to be given just as soon as it can be made.

Between six million and seven million doses — most of it the nasal, "FluMist" version of the swine flu vaccine, which contains a live, but weakened flu virus, — are nearly ready, officials say. The CDC expects those doses to leave warehouses over the next two weeks.

So far, in the United States, young people — ages five through 24 — have been hardest hit by the pandemic strain.

Top priorities for vaccination are:

Health care workers and emergency first-responders;
Children and teens from two to 18 years;
People who have close contact with infants under six months; and
Young adults 19 to 24 years old.

A few other high priority groups — including pregnant women and people with chronic respiratory disease, and others with a weakened immune system — should wait for the shot-in-the-arm version, Dr. Frieden said. Injectable vaccine should be "available in significant quantities by mid-to-late October," he said. And still more vaccine will be rolled out every week after that, throughout the flu season.

Each state will be responsible for distributing the vaccine and the methods may vary.

Unlike in a typical flu season, when "whoever orders first gets the most vaccine," Frieden said, each state will get a quantity of vaccine that is in proportion to its population. California, for example, has 11.9 percent of the U.S. population, so will get 11.9 percent of available vaccine.

All told, there are expected to be 90,000 vaccine distribution sites nationwide, but each state health department will determine what combination of hospitals, pharmacies, drugstores, primary care doctors, and school-based clinics it will authorize to give vaccine. A doctor who wants to give the vaccine should check with the state or local health department, Frieden said. Though the vaccine itself is free — paid for by the federal government — the vaccine-givers may tack on a fee to patients.

Bottom line, Frieden said: "We will have enough vaccine for everyone who wants to receive it." Eventually.

In the meantime, flu clinics across the country are already offering the usual, seasonal flu shots. It's fine health-wise to get your swine flu vaccination and a seasonal flu shot at the same time, Frieden, said. They won't interfere with each other, and they protect against different versions of flu.

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