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20 flu-related hospitalizations so far in October

By: By Associated Press

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CDC Chief 'Frustrated' By Swine Flu Vaccine Shortage

By: By Maggie Mertens on 2009-10-23

The Centers for Disease Control is just as unhappy as the rest of us about the tight supply of swine flu vaccine, we heard today.

In an afternoon briefing today, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden talked about the problems, saying the means of vaccine production aren’t exactly modern and are definitely not suited to responding to this pandemic. In short, manufacturers are having more trouble growing the virus for the vaccine than they originally expected. But, Frieden says, the method is the “tried and true” way that seasonal vaccines are produced, so at least we know it’s safe.

Another problem, Bloomberg reported today, is that some vaccine is held up by regulatory issues—not just manufacturing bottlenecks. GlaxoSmithKline still doesn’t have the US’s go-ahead for its H1N1 vaccine without an adjuvant, or immune-system booster, according to Bloomberg.

But Frieden focused on problems the vaccine makers are having in cultivating the virus. “Even if you yell at them, they don’t grow faster,” he said about the virus cultures.

More than 11 million doses of the vaccine have been shipped out for public use so far, bringing the total doses that have become available up to 16 million this week, the CDC said. That’s a far cry from the 195 million doses the CDC planned for by the end of the year and tensions are running high.

Frieden encourages people to get immunized when the vaccine becomes available, especially those at high risk, such as children and pregnant women.

As for the spread of the virus, swine flu is now widespread in 46 states. That’s on par with the top of the season for garden-variety flu, said Frieden, so it’s quite something in October. As for the new H1N1 virus, the CDC isn’t seeing any genetic changes in the virus.

Since the first outbreak of the virus in April in the US, 1,000 people have died and 20,000 have been hospitalized.

Frieden says he’s confident that everyone who wants to be vaccinated will have eventually be able to—just probably not as soon as they would like. For now, the CDC is steering clear of making any more projections and focusing on getting the vaccines to people as it becomes available.


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