August 11, 2009

Swine Flu Vaccine To Be Tested In 8 US Cities

Experimental swine flu shots are making their way to hundreds of Americans in eight cities in the race to get a vaccine out before a potentially new strain of the flu virus regains strength this fall and winter, The Associated Press reported.

Researchers at the government-funded testing site at Saint Louis University have been working late nights and weekends to organize the studies and recruit volunteers, according to lead scientist Sharon Frey.

"Typically it takes a year to do this. I can tell you we're working at breakneck speed," said Frey, an infectious diseases expert.

The government-led studies will vaccinate about 2,800 people and Saint Louis University will test 200 adults and 200 children. Separate studies by five flu vaccine manufacturers under contract with the government are also under way.

Some 160 million doses are expected to be available this fall, with the first batch expected sometime in September, health officials said.

The research is designed to test the safety and effectiveness of vaccines developed by drug makers and to help determine dosage and whether it can be given with a seasonal flu shot.

Different combinations of two swine flu vaccines made by drug makers Sanofi Pasteur and CSL Limited will be administered to participants along with a seasonal flu vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration will then quickly review the data, Frey said.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, who oversees the flu vaccination programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated it is possible the government will begin a public vaccination campaign before all of the work of the trials is complete.

A notorious swine flu vaccine campaign in 1976 was stopped after unexpectedly high numbers of patients suffered a paralyzing condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Health officials said that while it is not clear the vaccine was to blame, the government wants to carefully monitor those who receive the new vaccine.

Many young adults have been tapped as volunteers for the vaccine, as swine flu has been harder on younger people than their elders.

"I thought, 'I'll end up getting a flu shot anyway.' Somebody has to be the first person to try it," said 25 year-old Nicholas Sarakas of St. Peters, Mo.

Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Emory University, Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, University of Iowa, University of Maryland School of Medicine and Vanderbilt University are among the other sites for the vaccine testing process.


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