Media Examines U.S., Mexico H1N1 Vaccine Campaigns, Health Effects Of Handwashing In Bolivia

The Washington Post examines H1N1 vaccine supplies across the U.S.: “With only a fraction of the tens of millions of doses of vaccine that authorities predicted would be available arriving in states, cities and towns, public health officials who spent months planning for a massive immunization program are instead scrambling to parcel out their limited supply of nasal sprays and shots,” the newspaper writes.

The federal government points to vaccine manufacturing issues as the source of the slow-down in its campaign. During a Senate hearing Wednesday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said health officials hope the program will be “back on track of the number of vaccination doses per week that we had originally anticipated” by early November.

However, “Some experts are concerned that the wave of infections in the United States might be peaking and that the bulk of the vaccine will not become available until the disease has taken its biggest toll,” the newspaper writes. The article includes details on the waning public confidence that the government can effectively respond to the pandemic, which slipped from 73 to 69 percent since August, according to a Washington Post-ABC poll released Thursday (Stein/Laris, 10/23).

The Associated Press/Charlotte Observer reports: “Grappling with low supplies of swine flu vaccines, [Mexican] President Felipe Calderon persuaded drug makers this week to sell him 30 million doses, while 1,000 Mexicans lined up for an experimental vaccine they hope can speed up supplies.” Also this week, drug maker Sanofi-Aventis announced plans to open a plant in Mexico that “will produce 25 million flu vaccine doses a year starting in 2012.”

“A new wave of swine flu began to flare up in Mexico last month, and officials say it will continue into early 2010,” the news service writes. “As of Monday, Mexico has had 45,809 reported cases of swine flu and 271 deaths” (Mendoza, 10/23).

Increased Hand-Washing In Bolivia Has Positive Overall Health Effects

TIME examines how an increase in hand-washing among the people of Bolivia appears to not only be reducing the spread of H1N1, but also other common diseases in the country. “We see a steady 10% to 15% drop in the rate of incidence of acute diarrheal diseases in all age groups, compared with last year’s numbers at this time,” Rene Lenis, Bolivia’s director of epidemiology, said. Though more studies are needed to fully understand the connection between hand-washing and the drop in cases of diarrhea, Lenis said of the data, “this certainly raises our attention.”

“Diarrheal diseases are the biggest killer of children under age 5 worldwide; in Bolivia, 30,000 children die each year from such illnesses,” TIME writes. “Swine flu, as H1N1 is still referred to there, has hit Bolivia hard as well, with more than 2,000 infections and 55 deaths in a country of 9 million, most having occurred during the southern hemisphere’s winter.”

The article includes information about public receptiveness to Bolivia’s hand-washing campaign, which launched in April in response to mounting H1N1 fears. Plans for future study of the relationship between personal-hygiene habits and the spread of disease are also discussed (Friedman-Rudovsky, 10/22).

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