July 29, 2009 - If swine flu vaccine is in short supply -- nationally or in local areas -- pregnant women and people caring for or living with infants will go to the front of the line, the main U.S. vaccine advisory committee today recommended.
Next would come health care workers and first responders who have direct contact with patients, children 6 months to 4 years old, and kids 4 to 19 years old with medical conditions that put them at risk of severe flu disease. There are about 42 million Americans in these groups.
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By the end of October, officials expect to have 120 million doses of swine flu vaccine on hand. That's not enough for everybody -- especially if two doses are needed -- but that would be enough to add more people to the front of the line.
If projected vaccine supplies are on hand, otherwise healthy children 4 and older would be included in the first group to get the vaccine. People 25 to 64 with underlying medical conditions that put them at risk of severe flu disease would also be included, as would a larger group of health care workers and emergency medical technicians.
Once there's enough vaccine for these urgent groups, swine flu vaccine will be offered to healthy people 24 and older.
But not everyone agrees that the vaccine should be doled out one group at a time. The 120 million doses of swine flu vaccine that should arrive by the end of October is more doses of flu vaccine than Americans have ever used in a single year.
"The only sin is vaccine left in the refrigerator. And this happens every time you prioritize flu vaccine," William Schaffner, MD, president-elect of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, told the committee.
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The recommendations came today in a special, urgently called meeting of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group of vaccine and infectious disease experts from outside the CDC. The group's recommendations are almost always made official U.S. vaccine policy by the FDA and CDC.