Government Anticipates 8M Flu Vaccine Doses by February
The U.S. government's stockpile of an experimental vaccine for pandemic influenza is expected to reach nearly eight million doses by February, and officials hope to be able to stretch the supply to cover more than one-third of the U.S. population, federal health officials said Tuesday, the Washington Post reports. Sanofi Pasteur and Chiron currently are manufacturing the experimental vaccine, which targets the H5N1 avian flu strain.
Most of the eight million doses are scheduled to be delivered to the government stockpiles by late December, according to presentations made to an HHS advisory panel.
Scientists said that in the worst case scenario, the eight million doses would immunize only four million people, each of whom would need two shots a month apart to be fully protected. In that scenario, the vaccine likely would be restricted to critical personnel, including government and public-safety officials.
Scientists currently are conducting studies to determine whether the vaccine still confers full protection from avian flu when diluted. If the vaccine can be safely and effectively diluted, it would cover about 120 million U.S. residents under the best case scenario.
HHS Spokesperson William Hall said the government is not certain how many doses of the vaccine would be available if it can be diluted, adding, "[T]o be perfectly honest, if a pandemic occurs tomorrow, we can cover four million people."
Linda Lambert, chief of respiratory diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said some results from human studies of the vaccine should be available soon (Gillis, Washington Post, 11/30).