Vaccine against H1N1 virus could be ready for September

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Date Posted : 2009-09-23

United States health officials said Wednesday that a vaccine against the H1N1 virus, also known as the swine flu, could be ready for human use by early September. The announcement was made at a joint press conference held by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Food and Drug Administration.

Vaccine against H1N1 virus could be ready for September 

A similar statement was made by other top health officials before the US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Officials said that they are in the process of distributing samples of the virus to vaccine makers, which will then use them to produce pilot batches of the vaccine. The vaccine will then be tested under the auspices of the FDA to make sure it is safe and effective in humans.
Health officials did not speculate on how many months vaccine makers would need after that to produce enough vaccine to allow for mass vaccinations. Currently, flu vaccines take about four to six months to produce, although speedier technology is under development.
"If everything went great, production could lead to availability as early as September," said Anne Schuchat, acting deputy director for science and public health program at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before US senators.
But "everything doesn't always go great" she warned.
Schuchat said there were "active efforts" to prepare for making the vaccine, but, when asked whether it would definitely be made, replied: "I don't believe that decision has been made yet".
The top official warned that scientists did not believe that vaccines against seasonal influenza, which kills 36.000 people each year in the US, would protect against the "novel" virus now making headlines.
"We don't expect there to be protection," she said. "Based on the laboratory testing that's been done so far, we don't expect there to be cross-protection".
Asked why experts worried about swine flu given the annual havoc wreaked by regular, seasonal influenza, Schuchat said "we are dealing with a novel virus" and that the general population had not built up resistance to the illness.
"It's a virus that hasn't been around before," she said. "The general population doesn't have immunity to this virus. With seasonal flu, a good proportion of the population has some immunity."
Dr. Anthony Faugi from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases revealed that reference strains for the virus were distributed and a pre- planned development process is under way. The National Institutes of Health plans to perform clinical tests to determine the vaccine dose..

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