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Federal Advisory Committee Issues Guidelines For H1N1 Vaccine Campaign

During a meeting in Atlanta on Wednesday, a “federal advisory committee issued sweeping guidelines … for a vaccination campaign against the pandemic swine flu strain, identifying more than half the U.S. population as targets for the first round of vaccinations,” CNN reports (Hellerman, 7/29).

“[T]he Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a body that counsels the federal government on vaccine matters,” recommended those first in line for the H1N1 vaccine include pregnant women, health workers, care-givers of children under the age of six months, healthy children and young adults ages six months to 24 years and people under 65 with chronic underlying medical conditions, the Wall Street Journal reports (McKay, 7/29).

“Robin Robinson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told the meeting the government has contracted to buy around 200 million doses of vaccine and that 20 million have been delivered,” Reuters reports. Anne Schuchat of the CDC “said it still was not clear when vaccination could begin,” but added, “We want people to plan as though we will be able to go in mid-October” (Bigg, 7/29).

“The panel struggled to keep a balance between getting limited supplies of vaccine to people who need it the most urgently and making sure that there was enough demand for it,” Reuters writes in a separate story, adding, “In the past, influenza vaccines have been thrown away at the end of the flu season because people lost interest in being vaccinated” (Bigg[2], 7/29).

Though U.S. health officials estimate they will have 120 million H1N1 vaccine doses – enough for 60 million people – by mid-October, “the advisory panel [also] recommended that local officials narrow the priority list to a group of about 42 million people should vaccine supplies be tight,” the Wall Street Journal writes. The CDC will now review the group’s recommendations before “disseminat[ing] them to state and local health departments to help them plan for vaccination efforts” (7/29)

NPR’s All Things Considered interviewed William Schaffner of Vanderbilt, one of the experts advising the CDC’s immunization committee, about the recommendations made by the advisory committee, including why healthy adults over the age of 65 will be a lower priority to receive the H1N1 vaccine (Brand, 7/29).

Feds Not Prepared For H1N1 Outbreak This Fall, GAO Report Finds

“The federal government isn’t prepared for a potential outbreak of swine flu this fall, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released to Congress concluded Wednesday,” McClatchy/Kansas City.com reports. “Furthermore, said the GAO, Congress’ nonpartisan investigative arm, federal agencies haven’t addressed nearly half of the 24 recommendations it made last month” (Wells, 7/29).

During a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on Wednesday “[s]ome of the government’s H1N1 preparations came under fire,” CQ HealthBeat reports. Bernice Steinhardt, director for strategic issues at the GAO, criticized the government for “[a] lack of clear leadership for pandemic response … an outdated national response” as well as “[r]esponse gaps at the federal, state and local levels, and the need for more hospital space and resources in some parts of the country,” the news service writes.

“Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., proposed that the committee require DHS and Health and Human Services to answer the GAO’s questions and concerns within three months” – a “motion met with approval by unanimous consent” (Margetta, 7/29).

Sanofi-Aventis Executive Says Demand For H1N1 Vaccine From Western Countries May Limit Supply For Developing Countries

Also on Wednesday Chris Viehabcher, chief executive of the vaccine maker Sanofi-Aventis, cautioned that the demand for an H1N1 (swine) flu vaccine in developed countries could compromise the company’s ability to supply the vaccine to poor countries, the Financial Times reports. Playing “down suggestions that vaccine-makers stood to make large profits from the swine flu pandemic,” Viehabcher “warned that extended manufacturing to meet growing demand from the west could affect production required for poor countries in the next southern hemisphere winter” (Jack, 7/29).