KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Swine Flu Vaccine Arrives

The first doses of Swine Flu have arrived in the United States, as health officials work quickly to inoculate people against the virus.

USA Today: "'The level of activity we're seeing for this time of year is really unusual,' said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ... The high number of cases, however, is not a predictor of how severe this flu season will be, he said." During the last couple of weeks, 27 states have reported widespread cases of the H1N1 virus, with 99 percent of all flu cases being H1N1-related. By the end of the flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate more than 250 million doses of the swine flu virus will be in the U.S. (Brophy Marcus, 10/6).

The New York Times: "The vaccine is being distributed free to local jurisdictions, like city and state health departments, which are responsible for taking orders from doctors, hospitals, school systems and the like. Normally, doctors order vaccines directly from manufacturers. As of Monday, 62 states or localities had put in orders for a total of more than 1.7 million doses" (Hartocollis, 10/5).

HealthDay News/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a new study suggests vaccinations should start as soon as possible to avoid a pandemic in the United States. "Although most cases of the H1N1 flu are mild or moderate, close to 1,000 flu-related deaths occurred from August to September, and the flu season is just getting under way. ... (A Stanford University research team) found that vaccinating 40 percent of the people in October or 35 percent in November saves lives, cuts medical costs and shortens the pandemic, compared with later vaccination" (10/5).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a second story reports, however, that vaccination reporting is often not uniform across that state: "Georgia's immunization registry, known by the acronym GRITS, is supposed to make it easier for schools to verify that children have required shots. And state health officials say the registry is critical to monitoring the safety of the new H1N1 flu vaccine as it becomes available this month" (Young, 10/5).

Finally, The Kansas City Star reports on that city's Cerner Corp. an initiative to identify outbreaks. "The system will tap the electronic medical records of Cerner clients, including medical centers that account for roughly 30 percent of hospital beds nationally, to detect outbreaks as they happen" (Davis, 10/6).

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