MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And I'm Madeleine Brand.
The race has begun to get a swine flu vaccine ready for the fall. A trial run testing the vaccine on volunteers is underway. In a moment we'll talk with the public health director in Seattle about how the vaccine will be distributed once it's available.
First, though, NPR's Joanne Silberner has this report from a site that's testing the vaccine.
JOANNE SILBERNER: Today at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, and at seven other sites around the country, volunteers are receiving a new vaccine against H1N1 swine flu. They are the first volunteers in a government trial that will eventually include 2,800 people. Forty-eight-year-old landscaper Lorenzo Thornton is one of the volunteers. He's not the least bit worried about being in a vaccine trial.
Mr. LORENZO THORNTON: Not at all. I've got a pretty strong immune system.
Dr. WILBUR CHEN (Maryland Center for Vaccine Development): Welcome. My name's Wilbur Chen.
SILBERNER: Thornton has to first sit through a 40-minute orientation to learn about the risks he might be taking. Dr. Wilbur Chen gives the talk. He's with the Maryland Center for Vaccine Development and last Friday, as soon as the vaccine arrived, he got a shot himself. Chen tells the volunteers that the trials are moving fast because the virus itself is moving fast. He springs the history of how this virus emerged last spring.
Dr. CHEN: It only took about a month for us to have it spread from Mexico to our Southern states. And then from that, only 10 days later did we start confirming these cases in California, Kansas, New York, Ohio, Texas. And at that time, that's when our nation's health and human services declared a public health emergency.
SILBERNER: Chen told the volunteers they shouldn't expect to get the flu.
Dr. CHEN: The vaccine, you should know, is a killed virus, so you're not going to be able to get the flu - the actual flu from it, although you may get flu-like symptoms.
SILBERNER: Volunteers will be checked closely for any side effects. They'll also be watched for a problem associated with the swine flu vaccine 33 years ago.
Dr. CHEN: There's also something called Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is a transient paralytic syndrome. First, we recognized it back in 1976, and now we recognize that it actually happens every year anyways.
SILBERNER: Guillain-Barre is a very rare syndrome usually triggered by a viral infection. No one knows for sure if the vaccine is also a trigger. Volunteer Lorenzo Thornton will get paid for participating in the trial. He does not remember how much and the researchers won't say. And he says he's not in it for the money anyway.
Mr. THORNTON: Whatever they could find out from me if it gives me any kind of reactions, maybe could help someone else.
SILBERNER: The Maryland trials are being headed by Dr. Karen Kotloff.
Dr. KAREN KOTLOFF (Maryland Center for Vaccine Development): I think in September there's going to be an increase, and I think it will become much steeper come November or December.
SILBERNER: If the vaccine turns out to be safe, government officials say they'll have it ready for distribution in mid-October. Kotloff is confident about the vaccine's safety because of the long safety record of seasonal flu vaccines.
Dr. KOTLOFF: We have no scientific basis for thinking that this vaccine will behave any differently.
SILBERNER: Her biggest problem today is a computer malfunction. The computer that decides which people are getting a small dosage of the vaccine and which are getting a large dosage has malfunctioned. No one knows what to give volunteer Lorenzo Thornton. But after an hour, they've got the problem solved and he gets his vaccine.
Dr. KOTLOFF: Which arm do you prefer to have the vaccine in?
Mr. THORNTON: I'll take it in the left.
Dr. KOTLOFF: In your left, okay, one, two, three and go ahead and hold that on there.
Mr. THORNTON: Yes ma'am. Okay.
SILBERNER: He doesn't even wince.
Mr. THORNTON: Just stinged a little, that's all.
SILBERNER: Dr. Kotloff says here at Maryland they'll give about 400 shots in the next week.
Dr. KOTLOFF: Eight days from then we'll have the earliest blood sample to see what a single dose does. Two weeks after that we'll know what a single dose at the two strengths can do.
SILBERNER: All that to see if people will need two shots of the new H1N1 vaccine, a challenge if there's not very much available this fall.
Joanne Silberner, NPR News.