From Our 2009 Archives

1 Million More Doses of Swine Flu Vaccine on Hand

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. officials reported Wednesday the addition of another million doses H1N1 swine flu vaccine, bringing the total so far to 23.2 million doses.

"We know people are frustrated by the inability to immediately get vaccine right now," Janet Napolitano, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said during an afternoon press conference. "And we know people are frustrated by waiting in lines and by uncertainty."

Production delays have resulted in far fewer doses of the vaccine than federal officials had hoped for by this time. The first estimates called for 40 million doses by the end of October and 190 million doses by year's end.

The officials said that every day more vaccine is becoming available, and they hope to see an end to the shortage over the next several weeks.

"We are saddened and unhappy about the level of illness and death caused by H1N1 flu and share the frustration of Americans who are eager to be vaccinated," Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said during the press conference.

Napolitano noted that the genetic makeup of the H1N1 flu virus hasn't changed since it first appeared in April, so the vaccine is a good, effective match.

"We know we have a vaccine that is on target and is safe and secure," she said. "I can assure you that our scientists, doctors and manufacturing partners are working around the clock to try and fill the gap as quickly as possible. And the gap between vaccine supply and demand is closing every day."

Sebelius said the H1N1 swine flu continues to spread throughout the country, with 46 states reporting widespread outbreaks and the number of cases of infections and hospitalizations rising. More than 1,000 related deaths have been reported since April.

The good news, Sebelius said, is that the swine flu continues to be "very mild for most people. But there is no question we are seeing very severe cases hit in populations normally not susceptible to the flu and without underlying health conditions in some cases. Young people and pregnant women have been particular targets of that."

That's a significant difference from run-of-the-mill seasonal flu, which typically poses a much bigger risk to the elderly.

Napolitano and Sebelius both urged people to get their seasonal flu shot as well. It's not clear how the seasonal flu will play out this fall and winter. Seasonal flu season usually starts in the late fall and can run through early to mid-spring.

Sebelius also warned people to be cautious about phony products that claim to cure or prevent the swine flu.

"We are seeing a host of products being sold on the Internet, and the Food and Drug Administration is taking very seriously the advertisement of products pretending to do everything from preventing people from getting the flu to curing the flu, and we intend to take very strong action as quickly as possible," she said.

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SOURCES: Oct. 28, 2009, teleconference with Kathleen Sebelius, secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Janet Napolitano, secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security