Swine Flu Vaccine Running a Month Behind
Vaccine for the H1N1 flu won't be widely available until November - a month later than first thought - and some states are expecting delays to last until December.
"Ten days ago or two weeks ago it was thought end of October" that lots of vaccine would be available, said Donn Moyer of the Washington State Department of Health. Now health officials are hearing "the beginning or middle of November."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week that vaccine yields had been lower than hoped. Flu vaccine is grown in chicken eggs, and the yields can vary greatly.
The CDC's Anne Schuchat said Tuesday that states had ordered 10.8 million of the 12.8 million available doses of vaccine. The CDC had expected to receive up to 40 million doses by the end of October, but last week it announced the number would be closer to 28 million to 30 million. "By November, there will be a lot of vaccine out there," Schuchat said. The agency says it expects to eventually have vaccine for everyone who wants it.
"I wish we had more than we have right now, but I do want to let you know that we do have more coming out every day," Schuchat said.
"The vaccine's in a race against the virus, and right now the virus is winning," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. "I just had three meetings canceled because people were sick."
It's not that the government hasn't done everything it could to get the vaccine made, he said. "They've just overpromised on when the vaccine is going to get here."
Nationally, vaccine shortages are a growing problem. Officials in Fairfax County, Va., had to cancel H1N1 vaccination clinics because of lack of vaccine, according to a county website. In Kentucky, state officials say they may not catch up with demand until late November or December, state epidemiologist Kraig Humbaugh told the Associated Press.
Even if vaccine isn't widely available until November, it won't be too late, Schuchat said. The CDC expects the H1N1 flu season to last at least until spring. Schuchat says that in the 1957-58 flu pandemic, there was a wave of disease in September and October and then another big wave after the first of the year.
H1N1, commonly known as swine flu, is showing itself to be particularly dangerous for young people. CDC data released Tuesday show that nearly 85% of fatalities are in people under 65, a huge switch from seasonal flu, in which only 10% of those who die are under 65.