July 9, 2009

Government Readies For Possible Swine Flu Vaccination Campaigns

Pending results from upcoming studies, the Obama administration says vaccinations against swine flu are likely and will probably begin in mid-October, The Associated Press reported.

While no final decision has been made, school-age children, young adults with conditions such as asthma, pregnant women and health workers will likely be among those who are first vaccinated, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Once results from new vaccine studies set to start in early August are available, the government will make its final decision.

However, officials from all 50 states were told on Thursday to figure out now how they would deliver the shots to people who need them, Sebelius said.

The federal government called together health and education officials from every state to check their preparations for the likely prospect of vaccinations and determine how they'll handle flu-riddled schools in the fall.

Sebelius emphasized that the summit is not about raising alarms or stoking fears, but about being prepared.

"We must avoid complacency," she stated.

So far, some 1 million Americans have been infected with H1N1, according to government estimates.

While the heat and humidity during the summer usually chases away influenza, the swine flu has never left and U.S. deaths have reached 170.

Its worldwide spread has created larger problems in parts of the Southern Hemisphere, where it's currently flu season.

A greater spread of the flu in the United States has been considered inevitable as students return to crowded classrooms and temperatures drop"”and regular winter flu makes its own return.

Paul Jarris, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, is hoping to find enough workers for two vaccination campaigns.

He warned that the 100 million-plus doses of regular winter flu vaccine that are set for the usual October inoculation won't protect against swine flu.

But manufacturers will soon deliver test doses of a swine flu vaccine for a study to see if they're safe and effective.

The Obama administration will then quickly determine whether to continue with a second swine-flu vaccine campaign as well as decide who would be first in line for vaccinations.

Thursday's summit will prompt citizens to consider now how their family would handle a disruption even bigger than what happened during last spring's outbreak that resulted in numerous school closings.

"We will be seeking partnerships with schools potentially and other vaccination sites," Sebelius said.

"Clearly this will drill down to states and, frankly, local health departments. We have got to push supplies out. We have got to push antivirals out."


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