Swine Flu Vaccine Supply Expected To Increase ‘In Short Order’
A senior adviser to President Barack Obama says the government "overpromised" with the swine flu vaccine but that the vaccine supply would catch up with the demand within a week. Meanwhile, a health group established to monitor the vaccine's safety will begin work this week.
NPR examines criticism over the administration's handling of the H1N1 vaccine and interviews senior adviser David Axelrod, who said the administration made predictions for the number of H1N1 vaccine doses based on bad information. Axelrod said: "Well, I think the manufacturers overpromised, and what was reported was the representations that were made to us. The fact is that this is a problem that's abating every day. And yes, we thought we would have ... 40 million. Now we have 26 million. We believe that that is improving on a daily basis, and we're going to have an ample supply in very short order. So yes, we probably did overpromise, and we overpromised on the basis of what was represented to us."
Axelrod: "'The fact is that in terms of the H1N1 virus, we've mobilized pretty rapidly, and I think effectively starting the spring. I was in [with] the president after the first briefing, and there was a time, frankly, when people were suggesting that maybe we were overreacting. But he set the wheels in motion, and I think that that will have averted an even larger public health crisis'" (Simon, 10/31).
The Associated Press/The Seattle Times also reports on statements made by Alexrod, who appeared Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation: "Axelrod says 10 million more doses are expected to be available this week. He predicted that the U.S. will have all the vaccine it needs 'in very short order.' The swine flu vaccination program began Oct. 5. The delivery of the vaccine has frustrated people worried about the new H1N1 virus" (11/1).
The Associated Press/The Boston Globe reports: "Independent health advisers will begin monitoring safety of the swine flu vaccine today, an extra step the government promised in this year's unprecedented program to watch for possible side effects." Experts do not expect problems with the swine flu vaccine because of the many years of safe annual flu vaccines, which are made in a very similar way. "But systems to track the health of millions of Americans are being tapped to make sure -- to spot any rare but real problems quickly, and to explain the inevitable false alarms when common disorders coincide with inoculation. US health officials have spotted no concerns to date, said Dr. Bruce Gellin, head of the National Vaccine Program Office."
The H1N1 inoculations are "getting extra scrutiny" partly because, in 1976, mass vaccinations for a very different swine flu "were marred by reports of a rare paralyzing condition, Guillain-Barre syndrome. A report Friday in the British medical journal The Lancet said the intense monitoring will be crucial for an additional reason: separating normal disease rates from real vaccine risks. For example, about 2,500 miscarriages and 3,000 heart attacks occur every day in the United States, and some are sure to coincide with vaccination yet not be caused by it" (Neergaard, 11/2).
Meanwhile, The Associated Press reports on the worries of millions of people without sick leave: "As the swine flu spreads across the nation - and public health officials plead with the ill to, please, stay home in bed for several days until the fever goes away - a large segment of the American work force will face a tough choice about whether to call in sick or simply muddle through." About a third of the nation's workers don't have paid sick leave, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. But even some workers who do don't take it because they fear retribution from their bosses if they don't show up" (Heher, 11/1).