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U.S. Moves Forward With Preparations For H1N1 Vaccination Campaign

The Obama administration on Thursday said a nationwide vaccination program could begin as early as mid-October to protect Americans from the H1N1 (swine flu) virus and pledged $350 million to help prepare communities across the country for this effort, the Washington Times reports (Ward, 7/9).

“I think it’s clear that although we were fortunate not to see a more serious situation in the spring when we first got news of this outbreak, the potential for a significant outbreak in the fall is looming,” President Obama said, speaking by phone from the G8 summit in Italy to U.S. health officials who gathered in Maryland for a daylong flu summit organized by his Cabinet, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. “We want to make sure that we are not promoting panic, but we are promoting vigilance and preparation,” he said.

“The White House has drawn up a battle plan for taking on the virus when influenza season returns to the northern hemisphere in several weeks’ time,” contingent on the development of a viable H1N1 vaccine. Clinical trials on the first H1N1 vaccine are scheduled to start next month, according to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We know that a safe and effective vaccine is the best means of both preventing the disease in individuals and stopping the community spread of the virus,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said (Zeitvogel, 7/9).

“The federal government should get about 100 million doses of vaccine by mid-October, if the current production by five companies goes as planned,” the Washington Post writes. “But enough vaccine for wide use by the 120 million people especially vulnerable to the newly emerged strain of H1N1 influenza virus will not be available until later in the fall” (Brown/Hsu, 7/10).

Sebelius told the group gathered at the summit that children, pregnant women, people with chronic illness, the elderly and health workers and will be the first to receive the vaccine, CNN reports.

Reuters reports: “The government is also considering buying even more antiviral drugs, including more of GlaxoSmithKline’s inhaled drug Relenza and pediatric doses of Roche AG’s Tamiflu” as well as a drug nearing the end of clinical trials, which “would help address the issue of resistance,” the news service writes (Fox, 7/9). 

The Washington Times writes: “HHS is making $350 million in grants available to state and local governments to get ready, with $260 million slotted to help communities prepare for a vaccination program, and $90 million to help hospitals plan for a surge of patients” (7/9). “The federal government has spent about $1 billion so far on pandemic flu vaccine, with about $7 billion available for further purchases and other pandemic countermeasures,” according to the Washington Post (7/10).

H1N1’s Impact On World GDP; Zimbabwe’s Vulnerabilities

Dow Jones Newswires/NASDAQ examines the impact H1N1 is having on the world gross domestic product and the ongoing fear of the devastating effects the virus could have on developing countries (Quinton, 7/9). VOA News explores conflicting reports over whether or not the H1N1 virus has arrived in Zimbabwe, a country just beginning to rebound after a cholera epidemic has claimed the lives of more than 4,000 since August 2008 (Nyaira, 7/8).