* School-based vaccinations a model for the future
* 100 million flu vaccine doses ready
* Better vaccine capacity needed
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor
WASHINGTON, Dec 17 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
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.
"We still don't have the domestic capacity to make as much
(flu vaccine) as we need as fast as we need it," Nicole Lurie,
assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Health
and Human Services Department, told a news conference.
She said HHS had been forced by the H1N1 pandemic to work
closely with state and local health officials to monitor the
virus and deploy drugs and vaccines.
"I actually think our nation's preparedness, our seasonal
flu efforts and so on, will never be the same," Lurie said.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said 100 million H1N1 vaccines
will have been delivered or would be ready for order by the end of
the week. She urged Americans to get vaccinated now and said
everyone, not just people on the priority lists, should feel free
to get one.
"This is a serious flu that targets people who normally
don't get seriously ill from the flu," Sebelius told the news
"We have a chance to lessen the impact or even prevent a
big third wave ... and we need to seize this opportunity right
now," she said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
estimates that 47 million Americans have been infected with
H1N1, nearly 10,000 have been killed by it and more than
EBBING SECOND WAVE
"The number of children and young adults killed by
mid-November was five times more than in the average flu
season," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said.
"We have an ebbing second wave but we have an uncertain
School vaccinations have worked well and CDC may press to
keep the programs for seasonal influenza, Frieden said.
"Not only will vaccinating kids in school reduce the number of
kids who get sick ... but may well also tamp down the spread of
flu in a community," he said.
But Frieden fretted about losses to public health. The CDC
reported that in 2009, 10 percent fewer epidemiologists were
working in state health departments than in 2006. Those
specialists in the spread and pattern of disease are key to
keeping track of viruses like flu, Frieden said.
"This virus was undoubtedly circulating for several months
before it was identified," Frieden said.
Had it been detected, he said, vaccine makers could have
started work on a vaccine month earlier.
Frieden also noted there was confusion about how many vaccines
would be available, and when. HHS has been criticized for at first
saying 250 million vaccines would be produced, and then rolling
back on the numbers that could be delivered.
"Clearly we need to do better at managing vaccine
expectations," Frieden said.
Much work remains on improving vaccine technology, said Dr.
Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases. The goal is a so-called universal vaccine
that would not have to be reformulated as the virus mutates every
"We need to harness the science to be able to make an
influenza vaccine that not only is good from season to season
but ... that doesn't change from season to season and from
pandemic to pandemic," Fauci said.
"It is going to be several years before we get there."
(Editing by Peter Cooney)