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Global Health Officials Working To Prevent H1N1 Spread

“Global health officials are scrambling to try to prevent the spread of the H1N1 swine flu virus, with U.S. officials moving Thursday with a recommendation that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve or license a [new H1N1] vaccine,” without waiting on the results from “clinical trials to test its safety and efficacy,” Wall Street Journal reports (Dooren/Winning, 7/24). Reuters reports that FDA officials vowed during a meeting Thursday to closely monitor for any harmful side effects from the vaccine (Fox, 7/23).

The AP/Washington Post adds: “That doesn’t mean mass vaccinations would start before key information from studies of thousands of volunteers is in, U.S. officials stressed Thursday … But the FDA told its scientific advisers it could finish the red tape of licensing much of that vaccine well before the use-it-or-not decision is made” because of the similarities between it and the seasonal flu vaccine (Neergaard, 7/24). “Getting a vaccine approved as soon as possible is important, the FDA’s Dr. Wellington Sun told a committee of experts who advise the FDA on vaccine policy. ‘Time is really not on our side,’ Sun said. ‘We have to prepare for the worst,'” Reuters writes (7/23).

Also during the FDA meeting, U.S. federal officials said the government has purchased 195 million doses of H1N1 vaccine, Reuters reports. Additionally, “The U.S. Health and Human Services Department has also contracted for 120 million doses of adjuvant, a compound to stretch the number of doses of vaccine needed, the department’s Dr. Robin Robinson told [the] meeting” (Fox [2], 7/23). According to the AP/Washington Post, U.S. health officials anticipate having as many as 160 million doses of swine flu vaccine available sometime in October; “[T]hat supply would cover only a fraction of the populations that this new influenza strain is sickening the most – school-age children, teenagers and young adults” (7/24).

NPR’s Morning Edition reports on the FDA meeting and other H1N1 vaccine issues like supply and safety (Brand/Silberner, 7/23).

WHO Closely Watching For Signs Of H1N1 Mutation, Severity

“H1N1 pandemic flu has spread to some 160 countries and killed about 800 people, and needs to be watched carefully in case it mutates and becomes more severe in winter, the WHO said on Friday,” Reuters reports. “For the moment we haven’t seen any changes in the behavior of the virus. What we are seeing still is a geographic expansion across countries,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said during a press conference in Geneva (MacInnis/Nebehay, 7/24).

SAPA/News24.com Examines Who Will Be First In Line For H1N1 Vaccine

SAPA/News24.com examines how South Africa – like all countries – will be forced to prioritize who receives the H1N1 vaccine first, based on the people most vulnerable to H1N1. “Each country will have to decide who will be the recipients of the vaccine,” South Africa’s Executive Director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases Barry Schoub said, adding “The [WHO] has issued directives of who should be prioritised for vaccinations. These include healthcare workers, pregnant women, people with obesity and those with respiratory problems” (7/23).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.