Who Gets Swine Flu Vaccine Before You Do

College kids to line up before elderly; Pregnant women among first in line.

ByABC News
July 29, 2009, 2:38 PM

July 29, 2009— -- Elderly Americans who are used to being among the first in line for seasonal flu vaccines have been left off of the list of those who will have priority for swine flu shots this fall.

Instead, pregnant women and young people will be among those who go to the head of the line.

Health officials met at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta today to decide whether the government should go ahead with mass vaccinations and who would get first dibs on a vaccine that could become available this fall.

Watch "World News With Charles Gibson" tonight at 6:30 ET for the full report.

After wrestling with which groups should get priority, the committee ultimately decided by a vote of 13 to 1 to give immunization priority to a group including pregnant women, those who care for infants under six months of age, health care and EMS workers, children and teenagers between ages 6 months and 18 years old, and anyone under the age of 64 underlying medical conditions.

Senior citizens will also have to wait behind 19 to 24 year olds, who often get sick in large numbers at college, but don't tend to get deathly ill.

The groups getting prioritized make up about half of the U.S. population.

According to the latest CDC numbers, more than 43,700 cases of swine flu have already been confirmed in the U.S. Fifty percent of those cases have been among people between the ages of 5 and 24. Just 1 percent of all the swine flu victims in recent months were 65 and older. The figures illustrate how different swine flu has been from regular flu, which is normally more dangerous for the elderly.

Of all cases in the U.S., more than 5,000 people have been hospitalized and 302 have died.

The decision about vaccine priorities comes as a new study released this morning reveals that six pregnant women with swine flu died between April 15 and June 16 -- accounting for 13 percent of the total 45 U.S. deaths reported to the CDC.

All of them were healthy until they came down with the virus and developed pneumonia, according to the study based on CDC data. Not one of them received an antiviral to help them get better.

The study, published in the Aug. 8 issue of the British medical journal Lancet, indicates that pregnant women have been hospitalized more often, and have faced a higher risk of death, than other populations while battling the swine flu.

"If a pregnant woman suspects she has influenza, has influenza-like symptoms, the first thing she needs to do is call her health care provider and find out what she needs to do," Dr. Denise Jamieson, the study's author and medical officer in the CDC's division of reproductive health, said today. "And then the health care provider should have a system in place for triaging and evaluating pregnant women with influenza-symptoms promptly, and they should not hesitate to initiate antiviral therapy."

"I do think pregnant women should be a priority, right up there with health care workers," Tulane University's John Barry, author of "The Great Influenza," said Tuesday.

Yesterday others also considered who else should be on the list.

"Children and young adults with certain pre-existing medical conditions, and children, particularly younger children, should be included," said Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of pediatric infectious disease at the University of Utah.

Others argued police, firefighters, the military, even utility workers, should also have priority.

"We don't want any of these people out in time of a national crisis," said Dr. Howard Markel at the University of Michigan.

Visit the ABC News OnCall+ Swine Flu Center to get all your questions answered.

Learn about swine flu's symptoms and find out if you need to see a doctor.