- Hi Jeff -
- I am very concerned about this. I think it would be a
BIG BIG MISTAKE to "rush" vaccines through the process. Given
the new legislation, manufacturers who produce inferior vaccine that do
harm, might not be held liable for their products. Manufacturers might
give more detail to quantity then quality.
- US Considers Importing Influenza Vaccine
- By Lawrence K. Altman
- NY Times
- The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
said yesterday that they were exploring ways to import influenza vaccine
from Europe and redistribute supplies to meet any shortages in this country.
- "We have a gap between what we wish we had and what
we have," Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, director of the centers in Atlanta,
- Dr. Gerberding added that health officials were "just
doing the best we can to try to get vaccine to the people who need it the
- A shortage seems to exist in some regions while supplies
appear adequate in others, she said in a telephone news conference. She
did not specify the areas.
- Still, the director acknowledged that there was no way
that the 185 million Americans deemed eligible to receive flu shots would
receive them. Drug companies made 83 million doses for this season, a number
based on demand in past years.
- Dr. Gerberding added that government rationing of the
remaining stocks was not an option, because most vaccine is in the hands
of practicing physicians, who dispense it according to patient need and
- Last week, the two leading American makers of flu vaccine
said they had shipped all their supplies and could not make any more for
this season because of the complexity and time needed to produce it.
- A spokesman for Dr. Gerberding, Tom Skinner, said that
later this week the C.D.C. expected to receive information from surveys
to gain a more complete picture of stocks.
- Flu vaccines in this country are made entirely by private
companies, and in the past producers have had to discard tens of millions
of doses when most of the people eligible to receive it did not heed advice
from doctors and health officials to be immunized.
- "For the last five years, we have thrown a lot of
flu vaccine away," Dr. Gerberding said. Last year, she said, the two
companies that manufacture vaccine for this country, Aventis Pasteur and
Chiron, made 95 million doses but discarded 12 million because of low demand.
So they reduced production to 83 million for this season.
- Even if the government can import vaccine from Europe,
the amount is likely to be relatively small. Dr. Gerberding said the government
was exploring the possibility of securing a half-million doses of vaccine
from the British unit of Chiron. That vaccine is licensed but not approved
for use in the United States, Dr. Gerberding said, and her agency is working
with the Food and Drug Administration to determine whether it can be used
- "The trick here," she said, "is what we
can do as a federal agency to assure the manufacturers will make more doses
than we need on average."
- Dr. Gerberding said the health and human services secretary,
Tommy G. Thompson, had asked for recommendations to work on the problem.
One option is for the government to pay manufacturers to increase production
in the future.
- Dr. Gerberding was cautious in assessing the state of
- "It has not reached what we call the epidemic threshold
yet in terms of deaths from influenzalike illness," she said. "But
we wouldn't be surprised to see that happen, given the pattern that's emerging
- The flu season began early and has not peaked, she said,
adding, "We will expect more cases." In Denver, Dr. Tom Langston,
a pediatric emergency medicine fellow at Children's Hospital, said the
number of patients with influenza or parents concerned that their children
might have it had remained steady after an abrupt start.
- "Basically, four weeks ago, kind of overnight, our
numbers went up," Dr. Langston said in a telephone interview yesterday.
- Doctors in the hospital's emergency room are treating
70 to 100 additional patients each day compared with usual, Dr. Langston
- "It's the flu," he said, "and we see it
every winter. Why it's worse this year, I don't know. Why did Colorado
have more West Nile cases this summer? I don't know."
- Last week, the Centers for Disease Control reported that
influenza was widespread in 13 states, mostly in the West: Alaska, Arkansas,
Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee,
Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
- Only the District of Columbia and Massachusetts have
not reported significant activity as of their last report, but activity
may have increased since then, Dr. Gerberding said.
- Health officials here and in Europe had earlier reported
that a new Fujian strain of flu virus was causing a vast majority of cases
of the respiratory illness. Also, Dr. Gerberding has said early laboratory
tests show that the current vaccine offers some protection against Fujian
- But protection in humans is another issue, and that has
to be measured by determining what percentage of individuals vaccinated
come down with influenza. Even the best vaccine is not 100 percent effective.
Infectious disease experts and health officials debate the degree of protection
that the vaccine will afford. Many say it will be adequate; others contend
that it will be weak.
- Dr. Gerberding said it would take several weeks before
officials learned from studies how well this season's vaccine was protecting
against the Fujian strain.
- Meanwhile, she prescribed "common sense" measures
to protect against the spread of flu, advising parents to keep children
with fever, sneezing, coughing and aching out of school and adults with
similar signs and symptoms to stay home from work.
- Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
- Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
- Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message
- Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
- Go with God and in Good Health