October 29, 2009

US Will Vaccinate Americans Before Donating H1N1 Vaccines

One U.S. official said Wednesday that the United States will not donate swine flu vaccines to poor countries until at-risk Americans have been inoculated against H1N1, AFP reported.

U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that as more vaccine becomes available, evaluation would be made as to when it's appropriate for donation to begin.

"At this point the priority is getting the vaccine to citizens in this country, and that's what we're working on 24/7," she said.

Sebelius said it had always been the president's intention that the safety and security of the American people be a priority in the production and distribution" of the vaccine against the new strain of H1N1 flu.

Last month, as an effort to assist countries that will not otherwise have direct access to the vaccine, the White House pledged to make U.S. stocks of H1N1 vaccine available to the World Health Organization on a rolling basis as vaccine supplies become available.

These vaccine donations from a U.S.-led group of rich nations to about 100 developing countries could begin as early as November, the WHO said.

Meanwhile, officials have been forced to admit that H1N1 shots and nasal spray doses were not being delivered as quickly or in the quantities initially projected.

The first doses of vaccine were rolled out in the United States three weeks ago.

Vaccine manufacturers warned in mid-October of production slow-downs and health officials said supply would fall about 10 million doses short of the 40 million doses they had expected to have by the end of this month.

Vaccination clinics around the United States saw long lines, and many people were turned away as supplies ran dry.

Some 23 million doses of vaccine have been made available to state health authorities since the vaccine was first rolled out three weeks ago, Sebelius said. She noted that 9 million doses came into the distribution pipeline in the past week alone.

So far, people in five at-risk groups are being given first priority on a state-by-state basis.

These groups include: children and young adults, pregnant women, people with underlying health conditions such as asthma, health care workers and caregivers of infants younger than six months. Those five priority groups for vaccination number around 150 million people.

Sebelius said orders had been placed for 250 million doses of vaccine, but it was never going to be available all at the same time.

U.S. schools are closing by the dozens as officials say they are being hit so hard and so fast by the H1N1 virus that they feel shutting down for a few days is the only feasible option.

The U.S. Education Department said at least 351 schools were closed last week alone - affecting 126,000 students in 19 states.


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