(For full coverage of the flu outbreak, click [nFLU])
WASHINGTON May 3 The U.S. government expects
to have flu vaccines ready for both the new strain of the H1N1
virus and the seasonal flu by autumn, Health and Human Services
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on Sunday.
Sebelius said the government is accelerating production of
vaccine against the seasonal flu, which is expected to infect
millions of Americans.
"At the same time, we're growing the virus and testing the
virus to attack H1N1 and we'll be production-ready when it's
time to go," she said on NBC's Meet the Press.
"So we'll be ready for both," Sebelius said. "We're going
to be ready for both, come fall."
The World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention are trying to decide whether to add the
new H1N1 strain to the seasonal flu vaccine for the northern
hemisphere for delivery starting in September.
Companies already are making the vaccine for the autumn
months with a mixture of three influenza viruses that was
chosen this year before the new strain broke out.
"What hasn't been determined yet -- and it will be
determined by the scientists -- is whether or not vaccine
production for H1N1 makes sense, whether we really do want to
do full-scale production," Sebelius told Fox television.
They have four choices -- leaving the new strain out of the
mix altogether, replacing the current H1N1 component with the
new H1N1 strain, offering a separate swine H1N1 vaccine or
making it a so-called quadrivalent vaccine that includes the
new swine H1N1, the circulating seasonal H1N1, the H3N2
component and the influenza B strain.
It takes months to formulate influenza vaccines and they
must be made fresh every year with new strains of the
constantly mutating virus.
More than a dozen vaccine manufacturers have licenses to
produce influenza vaccines. The CDC and WHO make samples of
virus available to commercial manufacturers, who then
"It's too early to manufacture anything," Sebelius told
"What they need to do right now with this H1N1 virus is to
test it, is to make sure they've got the right antidote to this
particular viral strain, to make sure we have the right dosage,
and then make a decision based on the science of what we know
whether or not full-scale vaccine production."
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Bill Trott)