April 1, 2010

Expiring H1N1 Vaccine May Need To Be Discarded

Less than half of the 229 million doses of H1N1 vaccine purchased by the government have been distributed, leaving approximately 71.5 million doses that may have to be discarded unless they are used by their expiration date, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

According to Washington Post staff writer Rob Stein, between 81 and 91 million doses of the swine flu vaccine were inhaled or injected through February, leaving approximately 138 million doses unused.

Stein reports that about 60 million of those will be donated to underprivileged countries or stored for possible future use, but the remaining vaccine has already been placed in vials and syringes and must be disposed of by their expiration dates.

More than $1.5 billion dollars were invested in the H1N1 vaccines, which were produced quickly in response to the swine flu epidemic but subsequently delayed until late in 2009. Stein claims that government officials "were largely satisfied with the effort," which helped immunize between 72 and 81 million Americans to date.

"Did we do as well as we would have liked to? No, not at all," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) representative Anne Schuchat told the Washington Post reporter on April 1. "But the country did an extraordinary job of responding."

"It's pretty incredible to think about how much uncertainty we had at the beginning of this," she added. "We were dealing with a very unusual situation. We had a pandemic. We had young people being killed. We wanted to make sure we had enough. We didn't want to be short. It was important to us to be able to protect the American people."

Statistics show that nearly one-third of the people considered to have been at the highest risk from H1N1, including children between the ages of six months and 17 years, received the vaccine as of January 31, 2010. In total, the CDC believes that 60 million Americans contracted the swine flu during the outbreak.

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