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News Outlets Examine H1N1’s Impact On U.S. Vaccine Development Plans, Mexico’s Handling Of Outbreak

“A year after the emergence of swine flu [H1N1], U.S. health authorities and laboratories say the pandemic illustrated the need for new vaccine production techniques that are faster and more reliable,” Agence France-Presse writes in an article that examines the challenges associated with current vaccine development practices and plans for future development.

“We have never been in a stronger position to create new and better vaccines,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said this week, marking the one-year anniversary of the discovery of the H1N1 virus.

According to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the H1N1 pandemic illuminated the necessity of “bring[ing] the technology of influenza vaccine development and manufacture into the 21st century,” AFP writes. “The U.S. government is now partnering with the private sector and investing billions of dollars into research to foster new vaccine development methods in time for future pandemics, Fauci told AFP in an interview.”

The article details the government’s plans to improve vaccine development from the current practice of growing viruses in eggs, to use “so-called recombinant DNA technology” – changes that Fauci said will help to develop vaccines faster.

“It will be a gradual process,” he said. “In the next year or so, you will be seeing some of these recombinant products ready to be used in humans” (4/21).

In related news, the Associated Press/Washington Post examines the reactions of people living in Mexico to the government’s handling of H1N1. Although some “Mexicans are bristling after following initial government recommendations that may have been counterproductive, and question the value of late-arriving vaccines,” Miguel Angel Lezana, the director of Mexico’s National Center for Epidemiology and Disease Control, “insists the nation – and the world – are better prepared for another, more deadly flu outbreak,” the news service writes.

“Within five days of last year’s April 23 flu announcement, Mexico City would essentially shut down, streets empty of traffic and almost every business shuttered by government order. Only a few wary, masked silhouettes plied the streets, and a pall of fear and mistrust settled over the city,” the AP/Washington Post continues. “One year later, the fear is gone but Mexico still is feeling the human and economic consequences of swine flu.”

According to the news service, of the 17,700 people who died from H1N1 worldwide, 1,185 H1N1-related deaths were among those living in Mexico. Additionally, “[t]ourism revenues, Mexico’s largest source of income after oil and remittances, have yet to recover to pre-flu levels,” the news service writes.

The article includes details about the challenges the government in Mexico is facing in its efforts to distribute the “increasingly unpopular vaccines,” and how the H1N1 pandemic led the country to decide to develop the capacity to develop vaccines in the future. The article includes comments by Mexican citizens, and Mexico City’s Health Secretary, who addresses several tough learned from the public’s response to H1N1 (Stevenson, 4/23).