News & Events

Full H1N1 immunity may not come till Thanksgiving

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said yesterday it will probably be Thanksgiving before many Americans are fully immunized against the novel H1N1 flu virus, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Sebelius, speaking to reporters in Atlanta, said immunization will probably require two doses 3 weeks apart, and full immunity won’t develop until a week or two after the second dose. The first doses are expected to become available in mid-October. [Aug 25 AP report]

As demand drops, UK closes 2 pandemic flu call centers
Because of declining demand, Britain’s National Pandemic Flu Service will close two of its telephone call centers this week, the Guardian newspaper reported. The story said infection rates have dropped and calls to the help lines have fallen since late July. The centers prescribe antiviral drugs over the phone to people with flu-like illnesses, a practice that has stirred controversy. More than 500,000 packs of oseltamivir were prescribed in the first 2 weeks after the centers opened. [Aug 25 Guardian story]

Smokers may be susceptible to severe H1N1 illness
A Hong Kong health official said smokers may be prone to suffering life-threatening complications from novel H1N1 flu, Bloomberg News reported yesterday. At a medical meeting, Thomas Tsang of Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection said 12 of 27 patients who suffered pneumonia and other serous complications were current or former smokers, and some had no other known risk factors. About 1 in 200 people in Hong Kong who tested positive for H1N1 experienced severe disease, the story said. [Aug 24 Bloomberg News story]

Asia predicted to fall far short on H1N1 vaccine
Asian countries will far markedly short of novel H1N1 vaccine this fall, a spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO) said, according to a Reuters story today. Australia and China are scheduled to start vaccine production in September, but their vaccine is unlikely to benefit the rest of the region. "There is going to be massive underproduction of vaccines as compared to the needs and demand," said Manila-based WHO spokesman Peter Cordingley. [Aug 25 Reuters article]

Sweden targets entire population for vaccine
Sweden has set aside $142 million to pay for the vaccination of its entire population against pandemic flu, an official said yesterday, according to an Agence France-Press (AFP) story today. The country has signed an agreement with British vaccine maker GlaxoSmithKline for 18 million vaccine doses enough to cover its population of about 9.3 million with two doses each. Sweden’s vaccination program will be voluntary. [Aug 25 AFP story]

All Maryland hospitals e-linked for flu tracking
Maryland officials announced Monday that all of the state’s hospitals will be linked via computer to better track pandemic influenza this fall and winter, according to a Baltimore Sun report. Maryland is the first state to enroll all its hospitals in the surveillance program, which also can be used to combat bioterror. Forty-six hospitals will share data on patients admitted, diagnoses, and treatments. In addition, state drugstores will log sales of flu and cold medications.[Aug 25 Baltimore Sun report]