As 37 states reported widespread flu activity for the week of Oct. 5—up from 27 the week before—an official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said nearly all of those cases have been identified as the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus, and a vaccine is still the best protection against the deadly disease.
“It’s been a busy and exciting first week of our vaccination program,” said Anne Schuchat, director of the national center for immunization and respiratory diseases at the CDC in Atlanta. As of Oct. 8, there were 6.8 million doses of the nasal form of the vaccine available, and states had ordered 3.7 million of those doses. The injectable form of the vaccine will be available the week of Oct. 12, the same week that the CDC expects to begin offering weekly updates on the vaccination efforts throughout the states. “There is probably more demand than supply, but that’s expected because the tap has just opened,” Schuchat said. She also stressed the vaccine’s safety and said no “shortcuts” were taken to produce it.
Schuchat said the H1N1 virus has now claimed the lives of 76 U.S. children under the age of 18 since the deadly strain emerged in April. By comparison, total pediatric deaths for the flu have ranged from 46 to 88 in the past three years, Schuchat said, adding that the CDC expects more illness, more hospitalizations and more deaths as the flu season continues through May.
Meanwhile, Schuchat said there have been “a few wrinkles” with the seasonal flu vaccine, saying that 77 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine have been distributed, but that some providers and health departments still do not have as much as they want. She added that more of the seasonal flu vaccine will become available.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at the news conference that there were early results of a summer trial that showed no interference, and no serious adverse events, after subjects received the seasonal and H1N1 vaccinations simultaneously.