But even though the wheels have been set in motion to prepare a swine flu vaccine, the administration is stressing that it has not yet decided whether to move forward on widespread immunizations. That will depend partly on how the virus acts in the next few months, when the Southern Hemisphere has its flu season.
Dr. Ed Janoff, professor of infectious disease at the University of Colorado Denver, said that the steps that the government intends to take are "prudent."
"The government is taking appropriate steps to do the background and organize the logistics to produce vaccine against the new H1N1 if it is ultimately deemed necessary to provide to the public," Janoff said. "They have not committed to making large-scale vaccine, only to doing their homework and identify the concrete steps necessary."
He added that the fact that the government is staying one step ahead of the virus could be viewed by the public as a comforting sign -- particularly in light of the fact that researchers are still trying to determine whether the virus is likely to mutate into a deadlier form.
"This is a very fluid situation," said Dr. Gregory Poland, professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "This virus changes very quickly, and I think the big thing that we're watching for is, is this virus going to further mutate or trade genetic material with other circulating influenza viruses?
"If that happened, that could produce a virus that's more virulent and causes more disease."
It will take until this fall to figure out how much protection the vaccine offers. By then, the government will have to decide whether every American should roll up their sleeve.