October 5, 2009 / 5:25 PM / 10 years ago

US swine flu vaccination gets underway

* More than 1.3 million doses ordered so far

* Officials not sure how many will line up for vaccine

* Surveys suggest more than half will seek vaccine

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Healthcare workers in Indiana and Tennessee began getting the first U.S. pandemic H1N1 vaccines on Monday as part of what the government hopes will be a mass immunization effort, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Vaccinations were scheduled for clinic staff at Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center in Memphis, Tennessee, and Wishard Health Services in Indianapolis, the CDC said.

The first H1N1 swine flu vaccines to be administered will be AstraZeneca (AZN.L) unit MedImmune’s nasal spray, which was the first to be finished, packaged and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The U.S. government has ordered about 250 million doses from five companies — Sanofi-Aventis SA (SASY.PA), CSL Ltd (CSL.AX), Novartis AG NOVN.VX, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) and MedImmune.

The CDC says 47 U.S. states have ordered 1.38 million doses of the vaccine so far, with more orders to come from a total of 90,000 states, counties, cities and individual buyers such as retailers.

Healthcare workers, pregnant women and people with special health conditions including heart disease and diabetes are among the 160 million people CDC has said should be the first in line to get the vaccine.

The vaccines will trickle in at a rate of about 20 million doses a week, and officials are unsure how many Americans will actually get them. The U.S. government is providing them for free, but clinics and retailers may charge to administer them.

At least two surveys have suggested that demand may be somewhat higher for the swine flu vaccine than for the seasonal influenza vaccine.

A survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions and Harris Interactive found that 53 percent of Americans say they plan to get vaccinated, compared with 41 percent who say they will not be vaccinated.

MANY CHILDREN TO BE VACCINATED

The same percentages for Americans overall were seen in a survey released last week by the Harvard School of Public Health. It also found that 75 percent of parents planned to get their children vaccinated against H1N1.

A survey by Consumer Reports found only 35 percent of Americans would definitely have their children vaccinated.

The CDC says about 40 percent of young children aged 2 to 4 are usually vaccinated against influenza, 38 percent of adults aged 50 to 64, and 66 percent of people over the age of 65, who are the most likely to die from seasonal influenza.

The picture is complicated by seasonal flu vaccination, which started last month. Officials say people need both vaccinations to be protected from both seasonal flu and the pandemic H1N1 strain.

Swine flu has been circulating since it was first identified in two U.S. children last April but it has picked up speed since August as schools returned from summer breaks.

As of Oct. 2, the World Health Organization says it has 343,298 laboratory-confirmed cases of H1N1 globally with at least 4,108 deaths — but experts note these numbers do not reflect the true extent of the pandemic.

The global system for reporting influenza cases and deaths is often weeks or months behind the actual spread of disease and only a fraction of the cases or deaths are tested.

Dozens of children and at least 28 pregnant women in the United States have died from the virus and at least 100 pregnant women were sick enough to be hospitalized in intensive care, the CDC said. (Editing by Philip Barbara)




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