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U.N. Officials Highlight Need for Vaccine Assistance To Poor Countries

U.N. officials on Sunday said that the H1N1 (swine flu) virus had arrived in poorer countries, highlighting a growing need for financial assistance and H1N1 vaccines for such regions, SAPA/News24.com reports.

“We are anticipating that we may well see a different pattern of impact once this virus starts to take off and those explosive outbreaks occur in poorer communities,” said Julie Hall, of the WHO, during a news conference.

Despite donated H1N1 vaccines from pharmaceutical companies and several countries, David Nabarro, U.N. senior influenza coordinator, explained vaccines will be in limited supply in developing countries (10/5). These countries have “weaker medical systems … with large, young populations, who are most vulnerable to the disease,” Reuters writes. “The challenge during the next few weeks is to build up the solidarity between wealthy nations and poor nations to ensure that adequate vaccine is made available,” Nabarro said (Rabinovitch, 10/4).

During an interview with Newsweek, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan addresses the importance of H1N1 vaccine sharing. “The sharing of pandemic vaccine stockpiles “is a way of demonstrating solidarity to deal with a common threat,” Chan said. “I hope to see a difference in how we do public health, not just for the pandemic but for other diseases” (Seno, 10/2).

AP Examines How Cuba Contained H1N1

In related news, the Associated Press examines the success of Cuba at containing the spread of H1N1.

“Cuba’s sophisticated public-monitoring system and geographic isolation as an island have kept swine flu cases to just 435 in a country of 11 million — and no deaths to date. That’s roughly one in 25,000 people, compared with one in 6,900 in the U.S. and one in 4,000 in Mexico … Also working in Cuba’s favor is its health care system. Treatment is free at clinics in most neighborhoods,” though that’s likely to soon change, according to the AP. The article includes information about the decision by Cuban public health officials to not vaccinate the population with an H1N1 vaccine and plans for the containment of future H1N1 outbreaks (Anderson, 10/4).

First Of U.S. Healthcare Workers Will Receive H1N1 Vaccine Monday

According to the CDC, healthcare workers in Indiana and Tennessee will be among the first to receive the H1N1 vaccine in the U.S on Monday, Reuters reports (10/4).

In related news, the Washington Post examines the ambivalence of the American public of the H1N1 vaccine “[a]s the federal government launches the most ambitious inoculation campaign in U.S. history” this week. “Part of the reason for the tepid enthusiasm may be that the vaccine campaign is being buffeted by political and social currents: wariness of mainstream medicine combined with suspicion of big government and a general unease and complacency about vaccines,” the newspaper writes. “Together, these trends have sparked a flood of misconceptions about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, as well as about supposed plans to make the vaccine mandatory” (Stein, 10/4).