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Health Officials Address U.S. H1N1 Vaccine Supply

U.S. health officials briefing Congress on Wednesday would not outline a timeline for when enough H1N1 (swine flu) vaccines would be available to reach all high-risk populations in the country, the Washington Post reports. “We have been burned, quite frankly, by predictions that have not come to pass,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said during the House Appropriations subcommittee briefing.

According to the newspaper, “The federal government has ordered 250 million doses of pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccine” that they say will be “more than enough to satisfy demand among the country’s 308 million residents,” including the roughly 159 million people in the high-priority groups. “As of this week, 32.3 million doses of pandemic vaccine had been made available to states and cities by the federal government, which is controlling the entire U.S. supply” (Brown, 11/5).

“Shortages complicate the goal of ensuring that everyone who wants to get vaccinated is able to get vaccinated, Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, testified,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “We are buying it as fast as the manufacturers can produce it,” she said (Burns, 11/4).

The health officials acknowledged the possibility that the majority of vaccines may arrive after the current wave of the flu has passed, Agence France-Presse reports. Though the number of H1N1 cases in the U.S. continues to rise, some states have started to see a decrease in the rate of new cases, Frieden said. “Whether there will be another wave of H1N1 between now and May when the flu season ends or whether we’ll get another strain of influenza, only time will tell,” he told the briefing called to address flu vaccine supplies in the U.S. (11/4).

WHO Ships Antivirals, Supplies To Mongolia; Nigeria Reports First H1N1 Case 

In related news, Reuters examines the WHO’s efforts to help Mongolia, “as the country’s hospital system struggles to cope with a late but widespread outbreak of the H1N1 strain of flu.” So far, the country has reported 859 confirmed cases of H1N1, including six deaths. “Already Mongolia’s health system is quite strained, in terms of hospital capacity. The ministry is feeling the strain in terms of equipment, supplies and staff,” said the WHO’s Salik Govind, who works in Mongolia.

According to the news service, the WHO shipped over 45,000 doses of the antiviral, Tamiflu. The country currently lacks access to the H1N1 vaccine, but the government is attempting to buy doses of the H1N1 vaccine, “to supplement the 100,000 doses the WHO hopes to provide by the end of the year, Govind said” (Hornby/Byambasuren, 11/5).

In other news, Nigerian Health Minister Babatunde Osotimehin on Wednesday announced that a nine-year-old American girl living in Lagos, Nigeria, had become the country’s first reported case of H1N1, AFP reports. According to the health minister, the girl had fully recovered from the illness and none of those she had contact with had tested positive for the virus (11/4).