With winter still officially a few days away, a major snowstorm spreading across the southeast and mid-Atlantic areas of the US, and a nor’easter’ blowing in to the New England states, health officials are worried that the public may get too complacent about the threat of the Swine flu. To be sure, the pandemic thus far, has not reached the original levels feared by many public health officials across the globe. Nevertheless, there has been a great deal of illness and almost 12,000 deaths (over 2,000 in the US) worldwide directly attributable to the H1N1 strain of flu. Vaccine production, while still not totally up to par, had made great strides and there appears to be ample vaccine in many parts of the US for all who want to get vaccinated. Indeed, health officials are now urging ALL Americans to get vaccinated in an effort to prevent a third wave of the H1N1 pandemic from breaking out after the holidays. To date, fears about major side effects from the Swine flu vaccine have not been born out. As of November 19, 2009, 65+ million doses of vaccine had been administered in over 16 countries; the vaccine seems safe and effective, producing a strong immune response that should protect against infection. The safety profile of the new H1N1 vaccine is similar to that of the seasonal flu vaccine, and fewer than a dozen cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome have been reported post-vaccination. Only a few of these are suspected to be actually related to the H1N1 vaccination, and only temporary illness has been observed. This is in strong contrast to the 1976 swine flu outbreak, where mass vaccinations in the United States caused over 500 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome and led to 25 deaths. The current vaccine is manufactured according to protocols in place for production of the current seasonal flu vaccines, which are well tolerated. So it seems clear that the current H1N1 flu vaccine is safe. Experts estimate that this vaccine should confer adequate immunity for up to 12 months or longer. Based on all the current data, coupled with widespread availability of the vaccine, most Americans should strongly consider getting vaccinated, especially with an entire winter season yet to go . . .
Response after One Dose of a Monovalent Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 Vaccine — Preliminary Report – http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/NEJMoa0907413v1
Transcript of virtual press conference with Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, Director, Initiative for Vaccine Research World Health Organization 19 November 2009 – http://www.who.int/mediacentre/vpc_transcript_19_november_09_kieny.pdf
Swine flu ‘debacle’ of 1976 is recalled – http://articles.latimes.com/2009/apr/27/science/sci-swine-history27?pg=2
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control – http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/healthtopics/Documents/091218_Influenza_AH1N1_Situation
There are nearly 100 million vaccine doses available, and in 35 states, available now means anyone can get the vaccine, not just those in high-risk groups. About 100 million doses of swine flu vaccine are now available, which is close to the amount of seasonal flu vaccine used in a typical year. Some cities are reporting surpluses and releasing them to doctors’ offices and to pharmacy and supermarket clinics, telling them to vaccinate everyone — not just students and pregnant women, who have until now been the focus of vaccination drives. Health officials’ biggest fear now is that, with the perception that the pandemic is waning, many people will decide that they don’t need to get the vaccine. Top federal health officials urged all Americans – not just those at high risk — to get vaccinated against the H1N1 influenza virus to prevent another wave of illnesses after the holidays. Even though this new flu that scientists call the 2009 H1N1 strain is ebbing, specialists stressed that it’s too soon to say it’s over. There’s plenty of illness going around, and the 1957 flu pandemic ebbed in the fall only to bounce back in January and February.
Assessment and Thanks as Flu Wave Ebbs in U.S. – http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/18/health/18flu.html?_r=1
Swine flu doses will top 100 million on Friday – http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/booster_shots/2009/12/swine-flu-doses-will-top-1
U.S. Health Officials Urge H1N1 Shots for All Groups – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126106973839395771.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
Swine flu shots for everyone, U.S. urges after increased supply – http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-12-17-h1n1-vaccine_N.htm
The swine flu pandemic may have changed the U.S. approach to handling influenza forever, and for the better, U.S. officials said on Thursday. While they said years of work were needed before vaccine production was up to the desired standard, some experiments such as vaccinating children in schools might work to help control seasonal influenza. But there are still holes in the public health system that will take years to patch, and communication with the public could use a bit more polishing, they acknowledged.
Flu pandemic may change US flu approach forever – http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1719069220091217
With swine flu cases continuing to mount in many countries, it remains far too early to declare the H1N1 pandemic over, a World Health Organization official said Thursday. While the WHO has documented only about 10,000 deaths from the pandemic worldwide, Fukuda said it is too early to know whether this pandemic will turn out to be the mildest on record. WHO spokesman also noted that the signs of a peak and a decline in the caseload in North America and parts of Europe had occurred “extraordinarily early for influenza,” with several months of the winter left. As a result, the WHO could not rule out the possibility of another wave of illness in late winter or early spring. Senior World Health Organisation official Keiji Fukuda said Thursday that it was too early to declare the swine flu pandemic over, as it continues at “high levels” in parts of Europe and central Asia. Although the A(H1N1) flu virus is peaking and even declining in parts of the northern hemisphere, and is hardly present in the south, Fukuda said there was an unproven possibility that there could be another wave later in the winter. “It really probably remains too early to call the pandemic over,” Fukuda said in a weekly telephone news conference. Fukuda, Special Adviser to the WHO Director-General on Pandemic Influenza, said flu “activity continues at quite high levels in several different countries” notably the Czech Republic, France, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Switzerland. Fukuda also noted that the signs of a peak and a decline in the caseload in North America and parts of Europe had occurred “extraordinarily early for influenza,” with several months of the winter left. As a result, the WHO could not rule out the possibility of another wave of illness in late winter or early spring. “We simply are unable to answer this question right now. We continue to assess, right now we cannot predict whether we will see another upsurge in activity in the earlier parts of 2010,” Fukuda said.
WHO not ready to declare H1N1 pandemic over; U.S. officials urge vaccination – http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/17/AR2009121701309.
Too early to declare end to swine flu pandemic: WHO – http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hrghfLiMy8EXMPEmcb4SyH08eaQw
Too Soon to Say H1N1 Pandemic Over, WHO’s Fukuda Says – http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a6DOXn8l1oxM