July 13, 2009

Health Officials To Spend $1 Billion On Swine Flu Vaccines

Washington's top health official said on Sunday that the United States would commit one billion dollars toward the purchase of ingredients for a swine flu vaccine, as U.S. deaths from the virus continued to mount, AFP reported.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN television Sunday there would be another one billion dollars worth of orders placed to get the bulk ingredients for an H1N1 vaccination.

The final vaccine will likely be ready by October.

Sebelius said Congress agreed with President Barack Obama that keeping Americans safe and secure was the number one priority and U.S. scientist are working hard "to get the shots in folks' arms."

Some 211 confirmed U.S. deaths from the A(H1N1) virus have now been reported, with some 37,000 cases confirmed -- the highest level of death and infection of any country in the world, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Global health experts have already put the virus at pandemic levels and have confirmed it in more than 100 countries.

Officials have warned that the virus could return with a vengeance in the coming months when flu season kicks in.

Clinical trials on a first candidate vaccine are expected to begin in August, according to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci said at a medical conference that the tests would take "a couple of months" to determine whether the vaccine is safe and effective and what the appropriated dosage would be.

Vaccine makers Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis, Baxter, GlaxoSmithKline, Solvay and AstraZeneca's MedImmune subsidiary completed seasonal flu vaccines for this year.

Sebelius said the government was aggressively working on testing the virus strains to get a vaccination ready.

"It needs to be safe so testing and clinical trials will start this month. We'll know a lot more by the end of the summer and it needs to be effective," she said.


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