- The Washington Times - Monday, September 14, 2009

A swine flu vaccine could be ready in early October - sooner than expected - and require half the dose once anticipated, says Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Health care workers and other “high-priority groups” could be given the vaccine for the H1N1 virus, commonly called the swine flu, as early as the first week of October, Mrs. Sebelius said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

The secretary said she is confident that an ample supply of H1N1 vaccine shots will be available to the public by mid-October.

“We’ll get the vaccine out the door as fast as it rolls off the production lines,” she said.

Mrs. Sebelius said that development of the influenza vaccine has progressed so well that those taking the shot will have a “robust immune response” within 10 days, not three weeks as earlier predicted.

TWT RELATED STORY: Faster flu vaccine looms

The secretary added that healthy adults will need only one dose. There had been concerns that it would take two doses to build up immunity, delaying the protection while stretching the vaccine supply more thinly.

“That’s great, which means we’ll have a lot more vaccine,” she said.

Mrs. Sebelius’ optimism is a shift from last month, when the government was bracing for production delays of the vaccine.

The winter flu vaccine is widely available now, and health authorities urged people last week not to wait to take the shot.

The flu typically kills 36,000 Americans and hospitalizes 200,000 each year.

Flu viruses are circulating unusually early this year, government health officials said Friday, and cases have been reported in all 50 states.

Of those, 98 percent are from H1N1, said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The highest concentration of flu cases is in the Southeast and a few other states, Dr. Schuchat said.

One of the most high-profile swine flu cases involved U.S. national soccer team member Landon Donovan, who played through the illness in the Aug. 12 World Cup qualifying match in Mexico City. The Los Angeles Galaxy star said he knew he was sick but didn’t learn the diagnosis until a couple of days after the United States’ 2-1 loss to Mexico.

Donovan quickly recovered and returned to the field within days.

Americans are growing increasingly worried about catching swine flu, although the highest demand for the vaccine is among people in the age range that is last in line, says an Associated Press-GfK poll released Thursday.

The typical winter flu that kills mostly people 65 and older, but H1N1 infects mostly younger people. The government says priority for the H1N1 vaccine should be people ages 6 months to 24 years, and pregnant women.

Yet 82 percent of seniors said they’re likely to seek a swine flu shot, the poll said.

About 56 percent of the survey’s respondents said they are concerned about themselves or someone in the family getting swine flu, a 13-point jump since the last AP poll on the subject in July.

About 57 percent of respondents said they are likely to line up for the shot, the poll found.

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