The first batches of injectable vaccine against pandemic H1N1 influenza were shipped Sunday and Monday, and the first immunizations with them should begin Wednesday or Thursday, federal officials said this morning. The intranasal flu vaccine FluMist was shipped last week, and immunizations with it have already begun, but it is not suitable for everyone. It is currently licensed only for use in healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49 and for those who are not pregnant. That doesn't mean that it is dangerous in others -- simply that it has not been tested in them.
As of Monday, there were 9.8 million doses of swine flu vaccine available, about half of them injectable, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a morning news conference. About 5.8 million doses had been ordered by states as of Monday, but orders continue to flow in, she noted. Most people who desire the vaccine are still having trouble finding a provider who has it, but much larger numbers of doses will be available soon. Once more doses become available, people seeking vaccination can look for providers on the CDC's website.
Five more reports of pediatric deaths associated with swine flu have been received since last week, she said, bringing the total since April to 81.
The agency has been studying hospitalizations through its Emerging Infectious Diseases Network, which covers 10 sentinel states. Between April and the end of August, those states had about 1,400 hospitalizations for swine flu in adults and an additional 500 in children under the age of 18. "The vast majority of hospitalizations are occurring in young people" and not the elderly, as is common with seasonal flu, she said. About 45% of those hospitalized did not have an underlying medical condition listed on intake forms. About 26% of the adults had asthma, 8% had other lung diseases, 10% had diabetes and 7.6% had immunosuppression for various causes. Percentages were not available for children, but the most common underlying conditions were asthma and other lung diseases, neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy, and sickle cell disease.
Schuchat noted that there are currently delays in the availability of seasonal flu vaccine, even though 77 million doses have already been sent to providers. "A lot more doses will be available in November," she added.
-- Thomas H. Maugh II