September 19, 2009

First Swine Flu Vaccines Will Likely Be Needle-Free

The first round of swine flu vaccinations may be administered with a needle-free nasal spray version, government health officials said Friday.

The government has said that approximately 3.4 million doses of the vaccine will be made available in early October, and it now looks like they will all be in nasal spray form.

The nasal vaccine has only been approved for those between 2 and 49 years of age who are in good health, said Dr. Jay Butler, who heads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention swine flu vaccine task force.

The vaccine called FluMist has not been recommended for some people who have a higher risk of developing complications due to swine flu. Pregnant women, children younger than 2, and people with asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases are examples of people who are not recommended for the vaccine.

However, Butler said that vaccine shots may also be available the first week of October.

There is a key difference between the needle version of the vaccine and the nasal spray. The shot is made from killed influenza virus, while the spray is a living, yet weakened strain.

So far, the nasal spray has only gotten approval in the United States, and is made by the Maryland-based MedImmune, an AstraZeneca PLC subsidiary. There are four additional companies making flu shots for the U.S.

The first vaccine doses will be sent to at most 90,000 sites, including schools and clinics, across the U.S.

State health departments will then decide which offices and clinics will get the shots, and who should get the first doses, Butler said at a CDC press conference Friday.

The government has now ordered 195 million doses, but health officials say they can order more if there is enough of a demand.

Usually, less that 100 million Americans are vaccinated for the flu vaccine every year, but it is not yet clear what effect the swine flu scare will have on that number.

A recent Associated Press-GfK poll reported that 57 percent of people said they were likely to get it.


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