Millions of H1N1 Vaccine Doses Ready to Go First Week of October

Sep 24, 2009 3:12pm

ABC News’ Yunji de Nies reports: Six to seven million doses of the H1N1 vaccine will be available starting the first week of October, and that vaccine should be effective against the virus within eight days. That’s the word from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat, who spoke to reporters at the White House today.   Initial doses will be in spray form, safe for adults and children two years and older, but pregnant women will have to wait for the injection version. Sebelius said if all goes according to plan, 40 million doses – a mix of spray and shots — will be available by the middle of the month, and 10 to 20 million more each week, eventually reaching a total of 250 million.  Sebelius said there will be plenty of vaccines available to all who need it. The challenge is convincing people to take it.   “This is serious. People will die, and the people who are going to be ill and die are much more likely to be children and young adults, not frail and elderly,” she said. “Taking a risk, getting sick is not probably a wise roll of the dice. The vaccine, particularly for the target population, is probably the best defense against it.” That target population includes children, young adults and pregnant women. Pregnant women make up just 1 percent of the U.S. population, but account for at least 6 percent of H1N1 hospitalizations and deaths.  Dr. Schuchat said millions of Americans have likely been infected with H1N1 but because most have no way of knowing if they have the H1N1 versus or a different strain, the government is suggesting that even those who have had any flu in recent weeks get the vaccine.  She said that since April, at least 56 children have died from H1N1 in the U.S. Most had other existing health issues which made them more vulnerable to the disease.  H1N1 is particularly aggressive in children – 15 percent of those hospitalized with the virus have ended up in intensive care. Sebelius and Dr. Schuchat said the vaccine is safe, created through the same process as the seasonal flu vaccine.  About 100 million people receive an annual flu shot and the government is recommending that people get both shots.  The federal government is leaving vaccine distribution up to the states. Where a person can get it will depend on where the state has determined it can reach the most people. We could see distribution in traditional venues like clinics, hospitals, even schools, and other centers like shopping malls, big box stores and churches. The Southeastern United States is experiencing the highest level of infection.  Dr. Schuchat said this could be for one of two reasons: first because school started earlier in many of those states and second, because those areas did not see as many cases earlier in the spring, so this could be their “first wave.” Overall, most people who get the virus are fine after a few days with traditional flu remedies: fluids and rest.  Secretary Sebelius said there are a lot of myths about the virus, vaccine and treatment that they are working to dispel. “We are continuing to see, at least anecdotally, a lot of misuse of anti-virals.  A lot of people thinking, ‘I’ll take Tami-Flu and that will prevent me from getting the flu,’” she said.  Not only does that not work, it also has the potential to lower the efficacy of anti-viral drugs. The secretary said there is no need to test for H1N1 if symptoms are mild, in fact they are discouraging doctors from testing for H1N1 in all but the most serious cases, and instead simply treating patients because as she put it, “the flu is, the flu is, the flu, no need to be tested for the flu just stay home, wash your hands, cough into your sleeve.” — Yunji de Nies

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