The U.S. is preparing to launch a swine flu inoculation campaign so the numbers released today seem dire enough to have everyone running for a flu shot.
1.8 million Americans could be hospitalized with about half dying under a worst-case scenario, reports the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).
The swine flu vaccine is under development by five drug makers and may be available by October.
Generally seasonal flu can prove the most dangerous to those over the age of 65, but in this case, the H1N1 virus has affected a large number of children and young adults who have not survived other flu seasons and therefore do not have a reserve of immunity built up in their bodies.
Expect the peak season to hit about October 15th- which happens to be the same date a vaccine is expected to be delivered.
While 120 million doses were to be ready October 15th, production delays have federal health officials now saying expect only 45 million to be ready by then, reports ABC News.
ABC reports several reputable health experts, not part of the federal government, believe the estimates on the numbers, though scary, may be quite accurate.
However, the 2009-H1N1 season is unlikely to resemble the deadly flu pandemic of 1918-19, the report concludes.
Besides vaccines, the report says citizens should be reminded they can have a “potentially big impact on the flu season’s severity,” by frequent hand-washing and staying home from school or work when they’re sick with flu symptoms- fever, headache and muscle aches.
Multi-dose vials of the vaccine will contain thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative, which may keep some away, especially pregnant women.
“We don't have adequate safety studies on this vaccine before we are moving forward to market," said Lyn Redwood, president and co-founder of the group SafeMinds to ABC News.
"I'm really not convinced that we know for sure that the risk of the disease outweighs the risk of the vaccine, especially since this is a brand new additive that we have never used before in combination with thimerosal."
Sanofi-Aventis, one drug maker, says it plans to market a thimerosal-free version of the vaccine.
Another question still unresolved is whether drug makers will prepare a swine flu vaccine with an adjuvant.
Adjuvants can include forms of aluminum are used with other vaccines to make them more effective with less vaccine. Adjuvants are used in hepatitis A and B, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis and the Hib vaccine.
Drug Maker Immunity
Prior to 1988, any injuries by childhood vaccines allowed you to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer to receive compensation. Thought to be a disincentive to developing vaccines, the government created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), also known as "vaccine court," which relieves drug makers of any liability.
And while swine flu vaccines are being tested, drug makers admit with this rush order, there are still questions.
GlaxoSmithKline, one maker of vaccines, warns in a July press release that the "total population studies in clinical trials will be limited due to the needs to provide the vaccine to governments as quickly as possible. Additional studies will therefore be required and conducted after the vaccine is made available."
The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) has more information on mandatory vaccinations, and will host a conference in October on vaccination.
PCAST gathers scientists to advise the president in the area of science, technology and innovation. #