July 28, 2009 - Should the nation rush to get a swine flu vaccine as soon as possible or wait until all safety questions are answered? The CDC wants to know what you think.
Beginning in August, the federal health agency is holding day-long public meetings at 10 sites in the nation.
About 1,000 citizens will take part in the intensive meetings. Registration is open to everyone; those invited will represent a cross section of all ages, income levels, and ethnicities.
The meetings are being arranged by the CDC in partnership with The Keystone Center, a nonprofit organization that specializes in getting input on major issues from all sectors of society.
The first meetings on H1N1 swine flu vaccine are scheduled for Aug. 8 in Denver and Lincoln, Neb. Sites have not yet been announced for the other eight meetings, but all will be held on Saturdays in August. Anyone is welcome to register at www.keystone.org/H1N1.
Representatives from each of the 10 public meetings will later meet with a 30- to 40-member national group of decision makers representing the key public and private sectors involved in swine flu vaccine decisions.
What will the CDC want to know? A lot, said Jay C. Butler, MD, director of the CDC's H1N1 Vaccine Task Force. Butler spoke Monday at a public meeting of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, a group of outside experts that advises HHS on vaccine policy.
"These are public engagement outreaches which involve meeting with a group of members of the public, really for an entire day, with providing information to them and then asking them questions regarding what's been termed 'value choices' about how to use the vaccine," Butler said. "We're trying to have an opportunity for public input into some of the decisions we are struggling with."
"There are uncertainties that remain about how widespread and severe flu will be and how much demand there will be at the time for a vaccine," CDC spokesman Tom Skinner tells WebMD. "Because of the complexities of planning, these uncertainties pose a difficult dilemma. Should the U.S. go full throttle, take a go-slow approach, or somewhere in between?"
At the NVAC meeting, the panel recommended:
- That public and private insurers voluntarily cover the full cost of getting swine flu vaccinations.
- The federal government reimburse states for the cost of mass swine-flu immunization campaigns.
- That a safety overview be created to look at safety data as they come in during and after the vaccination program, and not wait to begin inquiries until after a safety signal appears.
Concerning swine flu vaccine safety, the panel noted that the nation's current vaccine safety infrastructure is "unlikely to be sufficient." It called for strengthening vaccine safety surveillance for adverse events linked to H1N1 swine flu vaccination.