U.S. orders more A/H1N1 flu vaccines from two companies

September 22, 2009

The world’s leading biotechnology company Med Immune said on Monday that the U.S. government has more than tripled its order of A/H1N1 flu vaccines from the Maryland-based giant.

A syringe extracts an experimental H1N1 swine flu vaccine from a vial before being administered to a medical volunteer during early trials with medical volunteers at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, August 10, 2009.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Med Immune said the U.S. department of health and human services has ordered 29 million more doses of Med Immune’s H1N1 flu vaccine called “Flu Mist,” a nasal spray version which recently won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for anyone who is between 2 to 49 years old.

This is Med Immune’s third contract since the spring and summer, when the federal health department ordered a total 13 million doses from the local biotech, which is owned by London-based Astra Zeneca PLC.

Also on Monday, the federal government ordered an extra 27.3 million doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine from Sanofi Pasteur of France, which produces flu shots at its factory in Swiftwater, Pa, bringing the U.S. eventual total to 251 million doses.

Earlier this year, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the government had ordered a total of 195 million doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine from five companies including the above-mentioned two.

U.S. health officials said that tests show children of 10 and older can be protected by one dose of the H1N1 flu vaccine, while children of 9 and younger almost certainly will need two doses.

The first wave of 3.4 million doses of the H1N1 flu vaccinations will come in the form of a nasal spray and will be distributed in the first week of October, said Jay Butler, chief of the CDC’s H1N1 flu vaccine task force, at a press conference in Atlanta on Friday.

“We estimate that the amount of vaccine that will be available will increase through October,” Butler said, adding eventual delivery would rise to about 20 million doses a week. Experts say that flu shots are made of killed influenza virus, while the nasals pray “Flu Mist” is made of live but weakened strain. The “Flu Mist” is only approved in the United States, they added.

The H1N1 virus infection was first identified in the United States in late April. By August, 555 people had died of the new virus with hospitalizations of 8,842. More than 40,000 confirmed and probable cases had been reported and more than one million infections were estimated to have occurred in the United States.

The latest orders of more H1N1 flu vaccine is welcome news, because the new flu virus continues to spread around the country.

Statistics based on reports by U.S. States and territories on Sept. 15 show that 21 states (most in the southeast region) had geographically widespread influenza activity, nine states (including California and Texas) and Puerto Rico territory had regional influenza activity, 11 states (in the middle west) and the District of Columbia had local influenza activity, eight states (most in the central region) and Guam had sporadic influenza activity, only one state reported no influenza activity.

The seasonal influenza A (H1) and A (H3) viruses co-circulated at low levels with the H1N1 virus, the CDC said in a conclusion, adding that 99 percent of all subtyped influenza A viruses being reported to the CDC last week were the new H1N1 virus.

That’s unusual because the typical seasonal flu season doesn’t start until October, Daniel Jernigan, deputy director of CDC’s Influenza Division, said over the weekend.

“We do expect a whole lot more illness in the coming weeks and throughout the coming U.S. flu season,” Jernigan said. “We expect if the H1N1 remains the predominant strain more younger people will be affected.”

The CDC and state officials are preparing for massive H1N1 flu immunizations, starting with school children in the first week of October.



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