Officials say swine flu vaccine may not be ready by fall

Jun 12, 2009 By Delthia Ricks, Newsday

As the World Health Organization declared a global flu pandemic Thursday, raising the alert to its highest level, federal health officials said it was unclear whether an effective vaccine would be available by fall.

Federal and local health officials are eyeing the Southern Hemisphere, where the virus is already on an unstoppable course and where it's feared it might combine with the seasonal flu strain and develop drug resistance.

The U.S. government has invested $1 billion toward vaccine production. But a vaccine must first be tested in a federally overseen clinical trial. No one knows whether the newly commissioned vaccine _ in its earliest phases of development _ will pass critical scientific testing. The first bird flu vaccine developed three years ago did not initially meet expectations.

"Vaccines are not the only tools we have in the toolbox," Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. "We have to be ready for the idea that we may not get a vaccine as soon as we'd like it, or we may not get a vaccine that works as well as we would like it. Or we might not get a vaccine."

Once a passes clinical tests, government officials will decide to whom it should be made available and whether it should be included in the Strategic National Stockpile, the cache of medications and supplies used in national emergencies.

WHO's declaration follows communitywide spread of the H1N1 strain, particularly in Australia, where the regular flu season is just getting under way. Global health leaders said the geographic spread meant all criteria had been met to declare a flu pandemic, the first in 41 years.

"The declaration of a pandemic does not suggest there's been any change in the behavior of the virus, only that it is spreading in more parts of the world," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director.

"Really, for all intents and purposes," Frieden said, "the U.S. government has been in Phase 6 of the for some time now."

H1N1 has now spread to 74 countries, infected at least 28,774 people and caused 144 deaths _ 10.4 percent of which have occurred in New York City.

The greatest concentration of cases has been in the New York/New Jersey region and in New England, with children and young adults composing the largest number of serious cases and hospitalizations.

Flu-tracking scientists from the CDC have fanned out below the equator, where the swine strain appears more dominant than ordinary flu strains, causing more illnesses.

Virus hunters are studying its spread and are on the lookout for any gene-swapping activity between the swine strain and a seasonal H1N1 virus already resistant to Tamiflu, a leading antiviral drug.

Most U.S. cases have been so mild they have not required treatment, but Schuchat said federal officials still do not know why the virus causes mild illnesses in some people and lethal infections in others.

___

(c) 2009, Newsday.

Visit Newsday online at www.newsday.com/

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Explore further: WHO issues new guidance on Ebola protective gear

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

WHO meets on production of swine flu vaccine

May 14, 2009

(AP) -- As swine flu cases hit 6,500 worldwide, World Health Organization officials were meeting with vaccine manufacturers and other experts in Geneva on Thursday to discuss making a vaccine to fight the virus.

Possible seasonal shot seen for bird flu

May 04, 2006

A seasonal flu shot against a possible bird flu pandemic is reported to be under consideration by U.S. public health officials at a Singapore conference.

CDC: Mild flu season apparently winding down

Apr 07, 2009

(AP) -- The flu season is winding down and turning out to be one of the mildest in years, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

GlaxoSmithKline taking pandemic vaccine orders

May 15, 2009

(AP) -- Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline said Friday it has received orders from several countries to stockpile pandemic vaccine as soon as it gets the vaccine's key ingredient from the World Health Organization.

Japan to start developing swine flu vaccine

May 04, 2009

The Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry announced Saturday the start of vaccine development against swine flu, following the arrival of a sample of the new type of flu strain at the National Institute of Infectious ...

Swine flu virus starting to look less threatening

May 01, 2009

(AP) -- The swine flu virus that has frightened the world is beginning to look a little less ominous. New York City officials reported Friday that the swine flu still has not spread beyond a few schools. ...

Recommended for you

Routines most vital in avoiding Ebola infection: WHO

2 hours ago

Meticulously following stringent routines when putting on and removing protective equipment is more important than the kind of gear health care workers use to ward off Ebola infection, the World Health Organization said Friday.

A look at latest Ebola developments

3 hours ago

No African countries are on the United Nations list of contributors to fight Ebola. With few exceptions, African governments and institutions are offering only marginal support as the continent faces its ...

Liberia opens one of largest Ebola treatment centers

4 hours ago

Remembering those who have died in the world's deadliest Ebola outbreak, Liberia's president opened one of the country's largest Ebola treatment centers in Monrovia on Friday amid hopes that the disease is ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.