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Flu Shots
  1. #1
    stingray is offline Junior Member
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    Get Your Flu Shot, Health Officials Urge Americans
    Thu Sep 23, 2004 01:05 PM ET

    By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pointing to last year's early and unusually harsh influenza season, U.S. health officials urged Americans on Thursday to get their flu shots.

    The vaccine shortages of recent flu seasons should not be a problem this year, and 100 million doses of vaccine will be available by the middle of November, the officials said.

    That still falls far short of the 185 million people who are supposed to get the vaccine, said flu expert Dr. Keiji Fukuda of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    But fewer than half of those who should get the vaccine actually do. "A lot of people simply don't want to get the vaccine or don't get vaccinated because of some obstacle," Fukuda told a news conference.

    The results are deadly. Every year, an average 36,000 Americans die of influenza and updated figures show that 200,000 a year end up in the hospital with serious flu complications such as pneumonia.

    "It is a disease that we have the means to prevent," said Dr. Carol Baker of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    The CDC said it was officially notified that 152 children died last season from influenza or its complications.

    "The vast majority of these children were not adequately vaccinated against flu," the CDC said in a statement.

    "Almost half of the children had an underlying medical condition, but 40 percent were previously healthy."

    The only way to protect babies under the age of 6 months, who are too young to be vaccinated, is for all those around them to get vaccinated, Baker said. Vaccinated pregnant women pass the immunity to their babies.

    Baker said parents should make appointments now for their children to get flu vaccines. Those under 9 need two doses, at least a month apart, so they should start soon, she said.

    A special appeal went out to healthcare workers, most of whom do not get the vaccine even though they are supposed to. Only 46 percent of healthcare workers such as doctors and nurses get an annual flu vaccine.

    The flu vaccine is reformulated every year to match strains known to be circulating. Last year it did not match the most common flu strains very closely but the CDC said it was still 50 percent effective, meaning it prevented half the expected number of deaths and hospitalizations.

    Pregnant women, children aged 6 to 23 months, people over 50 and people with chronic diseases are all supposed to get the flu vaccine, as are those who come in contact with the very young, old and sick.

    The American Lung Association said it had launched an online flu vaccine finder at http://www.lungusa.org that allows people to type in their zip code to find out where they can go to get a flu shot.

  2. #2
    stingray is offline Junior Member
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    Americans Are Worried About Flu Vaccine - Officials
    Tue Sep 28, 2004 03:51 PM ET

    By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans are caught between worries over the safety of the flu vaccine and fears that they will not be able to get it when they need it, a health official told Congress on Tuesday.

    But the president of a major flu vaccine manufacturer pledged that his company's vaccine was safe and would be distributed on time for the October start of the flu season.

    Last year's early influenza season led to heavy demand for the vaccine. And health officials miscalculated, so the vaccine, which is made up of three different flu strains, did not protect against the most common and dangerous strain.

    This year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered 100 million doses of vaccine and it has been reformulated -- as it is every year.

    However, vaccine maker Chiron Corp. said last month it had found impurities in a few batches and held up production. This confused patients, said Carol Moehrle, Director of Idaho's North Central District Health Department

    "They are fearful that we will have a shortage this season like we have had in the past. I spoke with one elderly woman recently who was close to a state of panic," she told a hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

    "Moreover, she was greatly worried about the safety of vaccines, due to the recent press coverage about possibly tainted lots of vaccine," Moehrle added.

    "It is clear to me that many of our elderly residents don't trust the ability of the public health system to deliver the flu vaccines that they need, when they need it."

    Several nursing homes ran out of vaccine last year and some clinics had to share supplies while large store chains, which had had their own vaccination programs, refused to share.

    "We do not believe that anyone has a clear understanding of the supply and distribution problems that we have experienced. We all order vaccine from same distributors and wholesalers," said Moehrle.

    The Dr. Stephen Ostroff of the Centers for Disease Control said it was in contact with distributors who buy the vaccine directly from the manufacturers. "We are working with the top 20 distributors to monitor how the vaccine is going out," the told the hearing.

    Moehrle warned that voluntary cooperation might not be enough. "If the nightmare of a flu pandemic ever arrives, we believe the federal government will have to step in to take a strong hand," she said.

    Chiron's chief executive officer, Howard Pien, said the company had lost 4 million doses of its Fluvirin vaccine that were contaminated, but the rest of the supply -- 48 million doses -- was safe and would go out on schedule.

    He said Chiron was also working on a faster way to make the influenza vaccine, which currently takes months.

    Dr. Pamela McInnes of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said her agency was working to develop better flu vaccines for the elderly, who are not always fully protected by vaccines because of their failing immune systems.

    Flu kills an estimated 36,000 Americans a year and puts 200,000 into the hospital. The CDC recommends that elderly people, health care workers, children under 2 and people with chronic illnesses get a flu shot every year.

  3. #3
    stingray is offline Junior Member
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    GPhA: ’Flu vaccine shortage highlights America’s critical need for biogenerics’

    ARLINGTON, VA., October 7, 2004 -- Following the announcement that the nation is facing a flu vaccine shortage this year, the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA) renewed its call for the FDA and Congress to move forward to accelerate the approval of affordable generic biopharmaceuticals and vaccines.

    "The shortage of the flu vaccine is another case in point as to why the federal government needs to accelerate the legal pathway for generic biopharmaceuticals and vaccines," said GPhA President and CEO Kathleen Jaeger.

    "Generic companies stand ready to prevent this crisis from recurring," continued Jaeger, who noted that she would make the industry’s position known to the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, which will be holding a hearing on the flu vaccine shortage on Friday. "We’re hopeful that the federal government will soon realize that it has yet to tap into the breadth, depth and capabilities of the generic pharmaceutical sector. Among our member companies, Barr, for example, is manufacturing a vaccine for the Department of Defense, while TEVA is currently manufacturing a therapeutic protein (copaxone).

    "Generic alternatives would help stabilize the drug supply for critically needed drug products such as the flu vaccine in a market with limited players. A competitive market spurs both innovation and price competition," she said. "Given escalating pharmaceutical expenditures and the broader health care crisis, the time is now for the FDA and Congress to commence competition for expensive biopharmaceutical medicines so that consumers can have timely access to these lifesaving products."

    Biogenerics are generally large protein molecules derived from living cells, such as antibiotics, insulin and human growth hormone. While the United States is debating the manufacture of generic biopharmaceuticals, citizens of other nations are already enjoying access to more affordable generic biopharmaceutical products.

    Jaeger pointed out that generic companies have highly sophisticated research and development capabilities and are ready to enter the U.S. biopharmaceutical market. Generic pharmaceutical companies also adhere to the same scientifically sound principles and standards as those relied upon by the brand sector.

    Source GPhA www.gphaonline.org


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    Illinois Gov. Wants to Import European Flu Vaccine
    Mon Oct 25, 2004 01:28 PM ET

    CHICAGO (Reuters) - Illinois authorities asked on Monday for federal approval to import from Europe thousands of doses of flu vaccine that the state located through its controversial program to buy cheaper medicines for older Americans.
    The U.S. shortage of vaccine as the flu season approaches has become a nightmare for those seeking flu shots, and a political issue ahead of November's presidential election.

    Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich said his emissaries located 30,000 doses of flu vaccine from French maker Aventis-Pasteur and may have found an additional 32,000 to 57,000 doses.

    Blagojevich said GlaxoSmithKline Plc in Great Britain could be a source for additional doses, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration must approve any transactions.

    The extra doses, at a bargain price of $7 apiece, would be distributed to 150,000 older Americans in state nursing homes.

    "After scouring Europe for as much flu vaccine as they could find, we were able to identify at least 30,000 doses that can be shipped within hours of approval by the FDA," Blagojevich said. "I'm calling on the FDA to act as quickly as possible to approve this transaction. Time is of the essence."

    The federal government has sought to make up for the loss of half the nation's flu vaccine supply by finding millions of additional doses, some that won't be available until January.

    The need was created when problems at Chiron Corp's Liverpool plant were found by British and U.S. regulators, resulting in the loss of 48 million doses.

    An FDA official said the agency has contacted a number of companies in its search for additional doses of the flu vaccine and the vaccine located by Illinois may be among the supplies the FDA is looking at.

    Blagojevich has tangled with federal health authorities who question the safety of importing cheaper prescription drugs under his program utilizing wholesale suppliers in Canada and Britain.

    More than 30,000 Americans die from flu complications each year. The 2003 flu season peaked in December in the Midwest, state authorities said.

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