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Archive for Monday, November 2, 2009

H1N1 vaccine safety tracked

Supply of swine flu shots to soon catch up with demand

November 2, 2009

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Swine Flu Pandemic

An outbreak of H1N1 Swine Flu was reported in Mexico in April 2009. By the end of May, it had spread across the U.S., with all 50 states reporting cases.

— Independent health advisers will begin monitoring the safety of the swine flu vaccine today, an extra step the government promised in this year’s unprecedented program to watch for possible side effects.

Decades of safe influenza inoculations mean specialists aren’t expecting problems with the swine flu vaccine, because it’s made the same way as the regular seasonal flu vaccine. But systems to track the health of millions of Americans are being tapped to make sure — to spot any rare but real problems quickly, and to explain the inevitable false alarms when common disorders coincide with inoculation.

U.S. health officials have spotted no concerns to date, Dr. Bruce Gellin, head of the National Vaccine Program Office, told The Associated Press.

A specially appointed working group of independent experts will also track the vaccine’s safety. Although the group will deliberate in private meetings, starting today, its charge is to raise a red flag if members feel the feds miss anything.

“Given the rapidity with which this particular vaccine was rolled out, there seems to be an extra special obligation to make sure things remain as uncomplicated as they have in the past,” Dr. Marie McCormick of the Harvard School of Public Health, who chairs the working group, told the AP.

Vaccinations against the new flu, which scientists call the 2009 H1N1 strain, have begun more slowly than the Obama administration had hoped. More vaccine is on the way, even as swine flu cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.

A senior adviser to President Barack Obama on Sunday said the government will catch up to the demand for swine flu vaccine within a week.

Obama adviser David Axelrod says the manufacturers of the vaccine were overly optimistic when they advised the administration earlier this year that they would have 40 million doses ready near the end of October. Instead, only 28 million doses of vaccine were available.

Axelrod says 10 million more doses are expected to be available this week. He predicted that the U.S. will have all the vaccine it needs “in very short order.”

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