KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Administration Hits Reset Button In Wake of Flu Vaccine Shortage

Obama administration officials are working to control the H1N1 flu message after shortages have forced many to wait for the swine flu vaccine.

The Washington Post reports that the message they are pushing is that "despite shortages, the program has been more successful than expected in some ways and that millions of doses are quickly becoming available." Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius held a briefing for reporters where they asked for patience. "Officials had projected that as many as 120 million doses of vaccine would be available by now, but later downgraded that projection to 40 million and then 28 million. So far, 23.3 million doses have become available" (Stein, 10/29).

USA Today: "The rate of vaccine production was lower than manufacturers had hoped because the virus' growth rate was slower than expected, [Napolitano] said: 'We were getting some pretty rosy scenarios, and not until growth began did we know for sure.' Now vaccine companies have had time to switch to faster-growing strains, so production is more robust. Nine million doses were produced in the past seven days, and 'the pace is picking up,' she said" (Weise, 10/28).

The shortage represents a political test for Obama, The New York Times reports. "The shortage, caused by delays in the vaccine manufacturing process, has put the president in exactly the situation he sought to avoid - one in which questions are being raised about the government's response. … Now, with officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that H1N1 is widespread in 46 states, public health experts and leading senators are giving the Obama administration only mixed grades" (Stolberg, 10/28).

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