The way the bird fluvaccine is distributed willbe the responsibility ofeach state, announcedHealth and Human ServicesSecretary MichaelO. Leavitt. If the H5N1strain of bird flu causes aworldwide epidemic,Leavitt said that for thefirst 6 months of any pandemic a vaccine wouldnot be available.
Once doses become available, "this is a battlethat'll be fought in thousands of communitiessimultaneously. What's working in onecommunity may not work as well in another."
The government is stockpiling both antiflumedication and a tiny amount of vaccine thatmight give protection until inoculations thatare a direct genetic match to the illness canbe produced. The United States is looking at 6months or longer until enough vaccine isavailable for everyone, Leavitt stressed.
Supplies will be divided among the statesbased on their population. State officials willbe responsible for deciding who receives thevaccine first. "The federal government has avery important role, and we'll play it." Yet,"when it comes down to managing the publichealth in a pandemic situation, it will be up tolocal public health authorities," Leavitt said.