CDC: Production Of H1N1 Flu Vaccine Lagging

By: CNN
By: CNN

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- As more people are getting sick from the H1N1 flu virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that the production of the H1N1 vaccine is slower than expected.

The CDC had hoped that about 40 million doses of H1N1, or swine flu, vaccine would be available by the end of October. But due to manufacturing delays, "we think at most it will be 10 to 12 million doses less," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC's director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

She told reporters Friday that manufacturers are making unprecedented amounts of vaccine, but difficulties growing the vaccine as well as time-consuming potency and purity testing are contributing to the delay.

"We are not cutting any corners in the safety of the production of the vaccine or the testing and oversight of the vaccine" Schuchat explained.

As of Wednesday, 11.4 million doses of flu vaccine were available to be ordered and 8 million doses had been ordered by state health departments, the CDC said.

Doctors, hospitals and clinics have to order the H1N1 vaccine through their state's health department. Each state decides how to dole out the vaccine when it becomes available. Schuchat acknowledged that it can be frustrating for people searching for this vaccine now. Availability will be limited for the next week or two, she said.

Georgia, for example, is going to get less than half of the amount of H1N1 vaccine that it was supposed to receive this month, state Public Health Commissioner Dr. Rhonda Medows said. In August the federal government told Georgia it would receive 2 million doses by the end of October, but this week, officials learned they would receive only 912,000 doses by end of the month.

A little more than half of the available doses are flu shots, Schuchat said, and the other doses are the nasal flu spray, which is approved only for health people between the ages of 2 and 49. Pregnant women cannot take the nasal vaccine.

The nasal form first became available on October 5 and the first H1N1 flu shots started shipping this week.

The CDC is not expecting widespread availability of the H1N1 vaccine until the end of this month or beginning of November, and "we know it's not enough given the demand," Schuchat said.

The CDC also is reporting unprecedented flu activity for this time of the year, as flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths continue to increase. The amount of flu and pneumonia illness is above epidemic levels, Schuchat said.

She also said the number of children who had died from the H1N1 virus has risen to 86, with 43 since August 30.

In a regular flu season, which lasts from September to May, 40 to 50 children usually succumb to flu.

Nearly half of the children who died in the past month were between the ages of 12 and 17, the CDC said. Children and young adults ranging in age from 6 months to 24 years are among those health officials say should be the first to get the H1N1 vaccine.

Health care workers, pregnant women and people with underlying illness also should be among the first to get vaccine, they say.

The-CNN-Wire/Atlanta
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