Despite 2nd U.S. Death, CDC Says Don't Close Schools for Swine Flu
Swine Flu Milder Than Feared, but More Deaths Expected
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H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine continued...
"Part of reason we are accelerating seasonal flu vaccine production is to clear the deck, so if the decision is made to make a vaccine for H1N1 we will be ready to go," she said.
While the new swine flu is expected to simmer -- at least -- through the spring and summer, the big question is what will happen in the fall and winter. For reasons that are still unclear, flu viruses spread much more easily in the colder months.
If the H1N1 flu becomes a pandemic, and if it spreads in the Southern Hemisphere -- where it's now autumn -- there's a chance it might change. Those changes might make a vaccine against the current H1N1 swine flu strain less effective.
Such a changed virus might be more or less virulent and might affect different populations. All these factors will affect vaccine planning.
As of today, the World Health Organization (WHO) has not moved the needle from phase 5 pandemic alert to the phase 6 pandemic stage.
The WHO says that there have been 1,490 confirmed H1N1 cases in 21 countries, but that no continent outside North America yet has the sustained transmission that would mean an official pandemic is under way.
As of now, planning for an H1N1 vaccine is moving ahead.
"The goal is really to move forward," Sebelius said. "Every effort will be made to make sure that if and when the call is made by scientists, vaccine production is ready to go."
Vaccine decisions, Sebelius promised, will be based on science.
"We will turn to scientists at the NIH [National Institutes of Health] and CDC to say when we have a vaccine that can inoculate people, and who are the target groups that will receive vaccination," she said. "Those decisions will not be made until a vaccine is ready to go."