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U.S. Won’t Donate H1N1 Vaccine To Developing Countries Until ‘At-Risk’ Americans Receive Vaccine

The U.S. will hold off on donating H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine stockpiles to developing countries until “at-risk Americans” receive the vaccine, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reports. Last month, the U.S. pledged to donate H1N1 vaccine stockpiles to developing countries. However, manufacturing delays of the H1N1 vaccine have driven the supply to “about 10 million doses short of the 40 million doses they had expected to have by the end of this month,” the news service writes.

“As vaccine becomes more available, I think evaluation will be made as to when it’s appropriate for donation to begin, but I can tell you at this point the priority is getting the vaccine to citizens in this country, and that’s what we’re working on 24/7,” Sebelius said (10/28).

In related news, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports on the WHO’s plans to distribute 200 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine to 100 developing countries – a process that WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said could begin as early as November (10/28).

WHO To Issue New H1N1 Vaccine Guidelines Next Week

“The World Health Organization will issue new guidance on tackling the H1N1 flu virus next week, based on talks between vaccine experts that began in Geneva on Wednesday,” Reuters reports. The focus of the meeting will be the expert panel’s recommendations on who should receive the H1N1 vaccine and how many doses are necessary to offer protection against the virus. “The WHO’s guidance on vaccinations is seen as pivotal for the pharmaceutical industry’s investment decisions as well as government policies on buying and distributing vaccines against the swine flu virus” (MacInnis, 10/28).

U.S. Government Releases Antivirals From Strategic National Stockpile

In related news, to meet a sudden increase in demand for liquid Tamiflu for U.S. children, the government recently began distributing “five-day courses” of the drug to states across the country from the Strategic National Stockpile, “which is on standby in case there are disease outbreaks or bioterrorism attacks,” the Washington Post reports.

Though “Federal health officials are confident that enough Tamiflu is available in the capsule or liquid forms to make sure children can be treated promptly,” there have been “shortages [of the drug] in sporadic spots,” according to Greg Burel, director of the CDC’s Division of Strategic National Stockpile. The article includes information about how Roche, the manufacturer of Tamiflu, is examining ways to increase production of the capsule and liquid form of the antiviral (Stein, 10/29).

The following articles examine several aspects of the U.S. government’s response to H1N1:

  • “Shortage of Vaccine Poses Political Test for Obama,” New York Times (Stolberg, 10/28).
  • “U.S. government faces no-win fight with flu,” Reuters (Fox, 10/28).
  • “Top officials defend flu vaccination campaign,” Washington Post (Stein, 10/29).
  • “Caution on Additive Slows Vaccine,” Wall Street Journal (Whalen/McKay, 10/29).