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U.S. To Commit Additional $1B To H1N1 Vaccine Development

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Sunday the U.S. has agreed to put an addition $1 billion towards ingredients for the production of a vaccine that offers protection against the H1N1 (swine flu) virus, Reuters reports. “There’ll be another $1 billion worth of orders placed to get the bulk ingredients for an H1N1 vaccination. Congress has agreed with the president that this is the number one priority, keeping Americans safe and secure,” Sebelius said (7/12).

The AFP/France24 writes: “[Sebelius'] remarks came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 211 U.S. deaths from the A(H1N1) virus, with some 37,000 cases confirmed – the highest level of death and infection of any country in the world” (AFP/France24, 7/12).

“[The] FDA is working with the scientists at NIH (National Institutes of Health) to make sure that we have a safe and effective strain and then we’re getting ready to make sure that we have a vaccination program,” according to Sebelius. The FDA has scheduled a meeting to discuss the results of ongoing clinical trials of H1N1 vaccines for July 23; the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice will convene on July 29, according to Reuters (7/12).

Vaccine Makers Having Difficulty Producing H1N1 Vaccine; WHO Vaccine Recommendations Expected Monday

The Canadian Press/Google.com writes, that “vaccine production has hit a snag, with manufacturers reporting a disappointingly low yield when vaccines viruses are grown in eggs.”  Marie-Paule Kieny, director of the WHO’s vaccine research initiative, said new seed strains are being created in the hope of boosting the vaccine yield. If yields cannot be increased, the vaccine production process will be slowed leading to pipeline delays for countries that have pre-ordered the vaccine. “And countries that haven’t pre-ordered pandemic vaccine would face substantial delays before manufacturers have product to sell to them,” writes Canadian Press/Google.com (Branswell, 7/12).

Meanwhile, a WHO spokeswoman said Friday that the WHO will likely issue its H1N1 vaccine recommendations Monday, Reuters/Ottawa Citizen reports (MacInnis/Nebehay, 7/10).

H1N1 Spreads In Southern Africa, Countries Take Precautionary Measures To Stop H1N1 Spread During, After Hajj

IRIN reports on the first confirmed cases of H1N1 in Botswana and Zimbabwe and the growing number of cases of H1N1 in South Africa. The article features an interview with the head of epidemiology at South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases, who characterized most of the H1N1 cases in the region as “mild”, explaining “it was too early to tell whether people living with HIV/AIDS would be affected to a greater degree by the flu,” IRIN writes (7/10).

A separate IRIN article explores the precautionary efforts countries in the Middle East are taking to reduce the transmission of H1N1 during and after the 2009 Hajj pilgrimage which starts in late November (7/12).