By Shirley S. Wang
July 16, 2009
The virus is spreading with â€œunprecedented speedâ€, wrote the WHO. â€œAt this point, further spread of the pandemic, within affected countries and to new countries, is considered inevitable.â€
But countries need to continue to closely monitor â€œunusual eventsâ€ like clusters of severe virus infections or unusual patterns of these serious cases. These signals might come from noticing an increase in the number of people staying home from work or school, or by an increase in emergency room visits.
On the H1N1 vaccine front, the WSJ notes that the manufacturing has been difficult. Novartis said that the yield is about 30% to 50% of what it normally gets for the seasonal flu vaccines, while Baxter told the WSJ that â€œyield optimizationâ€ â€” getting a lot of vaccine per batch â€” is a challenge.
Experts worry that the limited supply of vaccine will prompt a â€œglobal grabâ€, where countries will try to protect their own citizens first, according to ABC News. This could be an issue for the U.S., which makes only 20% of the flu vaccine it uses.
â€œThereâ€™s always a concern that when we have these international vaccine manufacturers that some of that vaccine for example might be embargoed or held back,â€ William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center told ABC.
The CDC is hosting a call for reporters at noon Eastern time today. Weâ€™ll listen in and report back on the key points.
Update: The CDC said it expects an increase in the number of H1N1 flu cases in the fall and that vaccine production is on track. Anne Schuchat, Director of the CDCâ€™s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, downplayed concerns about a vaccine shortage or that U.S. may not get the supply it was promised by the five manufacturers it has contracted with to provide the vaccine. She also said that the CDC expects to update its guidance for institutions and physicians over the next several weeks.
*Image of flu-virus particle via CDC