Government Prepares for Double-Barreled Flu Season

Health officials are working intensively on having a new vaccine to fight H1N1--and enough of it--available in time for when the flu season kicks in this fall.

Health officials are working intensively on having a new vaccine to fight H1N1-and enough of it-available in time for when the traditional flu season kicks in this fall.

The government has fast-tracked development and clinical trials of H1N1 vaccine at 8 sites throughout the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projects that a safe and effective vaccine will be available in mid-October. Even then, however, not everyone will be able to access it, so last week a panel of CDC immunization experts recommended priority vaccination for the following groups:

  • pregnant women
  • health care workers and emergency responders
  • infants less than 6 months of age
  • children and young adults aged 6 months to 24 years
  • individuals aged 25 to 64 years with underlying medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes

Combined, these groups equal approximately 159 million individuals.

Every state is developing a vaccine delivery plan. Vaccines will be available in a combination of settings, including vaccination clinics organized by local health departments, health care provider offices, schools, and other private settings, such as pharmacies and workplaces. In a keynote address to the National Association of County&City Health Officials last week, Walmart Senior Vice President John Agwunobi, MD, said the company is currently discussing with the CDC and state and local officials how its stores can serve as vaccination sites at locations across the country.

Meanwhile, health officials are reminding Americans that most of those who have become ill have recovered without requiring medical treatment. They are also urging them not to forget the toll the regular seasonal flu takes each year and to get vaccinated. Federal guidelines now call for all children aged 6 months to 18 years to get annual flu vaccination. Approval of 6 seasonal flu vaccines was recently announced by the FDA, and manufacturers say they are on track to ship millions of doses to the United States for the 2009-2010 flu season.

For expanded coverage on this topic, as well as other useful resources on H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccination, click on the "Web Exclusives" tab at www.PharmacyTimes.com.

For other articles in this issue, see:

Using Students Proves Prudent for Pharmacies

The Long, Hot Summer: Health Reform Debate Rages On

"Sin City" Casino Pharmacy Is a Healthy Bet