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First U.S. Patients Could Receive H1N1 Vaccine Next Week

U.S. health officials announced Thursday the first batches of the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine the government ordered will begin arriving in designated locations across the country on Tuesday and may be administered in the first patients by the end of next week, Reuters reports (Fox, 10/1).

The kick-off of the massive vaccination campaign will be challenging for U.S. health officials, USA Today reports. “In a task worthy of a deadly serious video game, state health departments have to organize thousands of workers at 90,000 sites nationwide to administer as many as 250 million doses in three to four months, making sure the people at greatest risk from swine flu — such as pregnant women, young children and health care workers — are first in line. On top of the logistics, health officials have to convince a somewhat skeptical public that swine flu vaccinations are necessary” (Weise, 10/1).

The CDC also issued a report Thursday that showed the impact of H1N1 on pregnant women, the Washington Post reports. The findings showed “100 pregnant women infected with the virus were hospitalized in intensive care units in the first four months of the outbreak,” and 28 died within the first four months of the outbreak (Brown, 10/2). CQ HealthBeat reports that Anne Schuchat, a physician at the CDC, emphasized the importance for pregnant women to protect themselves against the H1N1 virus by receiving the vaccine (Reichard, 10/1).

Another study, released Thursday, shows how a second wave of the H1N1 flu could overwhelm hospitals and health departments in the U.S., Reuters reports in a second story. “The study, based on estimates from a computer model developed by the” CDC found “[f]ifteen states could run out of hospital beds and 12 more could fill 75 percent of their beds with swine flu sufferers if 35 percent of Americans catch the virus in coming weeks,” the news service writes (Steenhuysen, 10/1).

Pandemic Can Guide Future Preparedness, Vaccine Development, Researchers Say

In related news, Bloomberg examines the ways the H1N1 pandemic may guide the development of a universal flu vaccine and improve worldwide emergency preparedness, as researchers describe in the journal Science.

“Preparations for the pandemic have already helped more than double worldwide vaccine manufacturing capacity to 900 million doses from 400 million, the scientists from Novartis AG, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Erasmus University and the World Health Organization said in the article,” Bloomberg writes, noting efforts currently underway to develop vaccines that protect against the majority of flu strains.

“‘Although the H1N1 pandemic has the potential to cause a social and economic emergency, it also provides an opportunity to rethink our approach to influenza virus disease and to develop more effective vaccines and economically sustainable solutions for developing and developed countries,’ researchers led by Rino Rappuoli of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Srl wrote in the report,” the news service writes. The report also indicated the need for developing countries to improve influenza surveillance and incorporate flu vaccines into childhood immunization programs (Gerlin, 10/1).