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Swine Flu Vaccine: The Race Is On

Massive Vaccine Effort Takes Shape as Swine Flu Pandemic Sweeps Globe

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Gellin's point is that making vaccine is one thing, and implementing a huge vaccination program is another. Deciding to make a vaccine requires major decisions:

  • Who should get the vaccine first?
  • How will the vaccine be delivered?
  • How will state and local health departments -- now struggling with huge budget shortfalls and staff reductions -- manage vaccination programs?
  • How can vaccine safety be monitored in real time?

Another issue is whether swine flu will wait to strike until people get vaccinated. Since swine flu most frequently attacks school-age children, many experts fear there will be a big wave of cases as schools open in the late summer and early fall.

During the Asian flu pandemic of 1957, Cox says, there was an early wave of flu in September. By the time a vaccine was ready in December, many people had lost interest in vaccination.

That was a big mistake.

"A lot of people died when a new wave came through later that winter," Cox says.

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