Swine Flu Vaccine Seems Safe in Early Trials

As the H1N1 swine flu virus continues to circle the globe, producing minor infections similar to seasonal flu, U.S. health officials said Friday that they were on track for a viable vaccine by the fall, with early indications that the shot is safe.

The new vaccine is now in a series of clinical trials, the results of which should be completed between mid-September and late October. Officials said they hope to have 45 million to 50 million doses by mid-October and 195 million doses by year's end, informs U.S. News & World Report.

Based on the lack of adverse effects in vaccination of the elderly, tests in children age 6 months to 17 years began Wednesday and Thursday, he said. Data from those trials should be available about two weeks after data from the first trials.

The United States expects to have 45 million to 52 million doses of the vaccine available by mid-October and as many as 195 million by the end of the year, said Dr. Jay Butler, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's H1N1 vaccine test force, in the same news conference. The vaccine will be distributed to the states on the basis of population, he said, and distribution will be coordinated in the same manner as the government's Vaccines for Children program -- although the program will have to enroll many more providers to ensure adequate distribution, Los Angeles Times reports.

The U.S. is currently experiencing low levels of influenza, which is rare at this time of the year. Almost all cases are H1N1, Butler says. So far the CDC has laboratory confirmed reports of 7,963 hospitalizations and 522 deaths. Those numbers are very likely a radical underestimate of actual cases, as most people aren't tested, Butler said.

The H1N1 flu, commonly known as swine flu, continues to disproportionately affect young people, which is very different than most influenza strains. Thus far about 75% of hospitalizations and 60% of deaths are in people under 49 years, he reported, USA Today informs.

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