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First Doses of Swine Flu Vaccine Coming Soon

CDC Says 3.4 Million Doses Will Be Ready in Early October
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 18, 2009 - The first 3.4 million doses of swine flu vaccine -- all the nasal spray vaccine -- will ship in early October, the CDC said today.

In addition, some flu shots may be ready to ship by then, too, Jay Butler, MD, chief of the CDC's H1N1 Vaccine Task Force, said at a news conference.

"Vaccine will be going out and will be distributed to providers by the first week of October," Butler said. "Additional vaccine may be available as well, but 3.4 million doses is the hard number that we have right now. And all that vaccine is the live attenuated vaccine, which is the nasal spray."

H1N1 swine flu vaccine will be distributed to states according to population. Here's how it works:

  • Some 90,000 provider sites -- some of them retail chains with many stores -- will order vaccine from state health departments.
  • State and local health authorities will triage the orders, deciding who gets how many doses of vaccine.
  • State and local authorities will then send the orders to the CDC, which will collate them and send them to the distributors at about 5 a.m. the next morning.
  • Distributors will fill the orders within three business days and then ship the vaccine by overnight express to providers.
  • By mid-October, some 45 million vaccine doses will be available. Every week after Oct. 15, 20 million more doses of vaccine will become available until the entire U.S. allotment of 195 million doses is reached.

Unlike the more traditional flu shots, the nasal spray version of swine flu vaccine is approved only for people age 2 to 49 years. That means that very young children -- one of the priority groups for swine flu vaccination -- won't be getting these first doses. Neither will pregnant women.

Instead, these first 3.4 million vaccine doses likely will go to health care workers with direct patient contact, or to caretakers and household contacts of infants under 6 months of age.

"It's a decision that really does need to be made locally," Butler said.

Two Flu Shots for Kids

The good news from clinical trials of H1N1 swine flu vaccine is that healthy adults need only one dose of vaccine for protection.

But the package inserts being readied for the vaccine say that kids under age 10 years will need two doses of vaccine, given three weeks apart.

"We anticipate that two doses will be required for younger children," Butler said.

Do You Need Vaccine if You've Already Had a Flu-Like Illness?

Swine flu is, of course, already here and moving like wildfire. It's now widespread in 21 states, with cases in all 50 states.

"It's a very strange thing for us to see that amount of influenza at this time of year," Daniel Jernigan, MD, deputy director of the CDC's flu division, said at the news conference. "In the Southeast right now there's a considerable amount of influenza disease, very consistent with the earlier opening of schools in the Southeast. ... We may expect that increases in numbers of cases will occur in other parts of the country, where kids are now getting back together."

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