CDC Ramps Up Production Of New Three-In-One Flu Vaccine

Health officials say that there will be plenty of flu vaccine available this year, now that the H1N1 pandemic has ended, The Washington Post reports. “The World Health Organization declared an end to the pandemic last month, based on indications that the H1N1 flu was transitioning to a more seasonal virus. Unlike last year, when there was one vaccine for H1N1 flu and another for seasonal flu, this year’s vaccine is a ‘three-in-one’ that includes protection against H1N1 as well as two other strains.” Officials are recommending for the first time that everyone older than 6 months get vaccinated. “In an average flu season in the United States, the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] estimates that 5 to 20 percent of the population will be sickened; that would be 15 million to 62 million people” (Sun, 9/7).

In the meantime, the CDC is ramping up production of the vaccine to more than 40 percent over last year’s supply, McClatchy/The Seattle Times reports. “A bumper crop of 160 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine is being produced, the agency said. This is about 40 percent more than last year. … Pharmacy chains anticipate that H1N1 memories will boost demand for shots this fall. That’s what customer research suggests at CVS. The chain started offering shots on Sunday. Walgreens began several days earlier. … Pharmacy chains have another reason for promoting the vaccine so widely: This is the first year that all states are permitting properly trained pharmacists to give shots. The rules vary state by state. In Kansas, pharmacists are limited to vaccinating people 6 years or older; in Missouri, the minimum age is 12” (Bavley, 9/6).

USA Today: “Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius says the federal Affordable Care Act mandates for the first time that Medicare and private health plans offer flu vaccine coverage without co-pays or deductibles. Uninsured children are covered under the federal Vaccines for Children program” (Sternberg, 9/6).

Finally, in Philadelphia, more health systems are requiring their employees to be vaccinated, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. “Proponents of mandatory vaccination argue that health workers, who must get other vaccines such as measles before they can work, have a responsibility to protect patients. Some nursing organizations have fought the rules, saying that they should be part of negotiated contracts and that employees should be able to decide for themselves whether they need the vaccines. … Last year, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the three-hospital University of Pennsylvania Health System made flu shots mandatory for their workers. Nine employees ended up leaving Children’s because of the policy.” Some studies show employee vaccinations prevents transmission of disease and reduces patient death rates (Burling, 9/6).

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