Out With the Old, In With the New … H1N1 Vaccines

Last year, approximately 162 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine were distributed and roughly 90 million were administered. What happened to the remaining 72 million doses? The federal government estimates that as many as 40 million of those vaccines have expired, and the rest are sitting in cold storage somewhere.

Under the government’s Voluntary Central Vaccine Recovery Program, physicians in May were allowed to ship expired H1N1 vaccine doses, free of charge, to a facility contracted with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Physicians will get another chance to unload their expired vaccines sometime this fall, the CDC said.

As for H1N1 vaccines that haven’t expired, physicians should hold on to them until sufficient quantity of the 2010-2011 seasonal vaccine is available, HHS spokesman Bill Hall said. These doses can still be used in patients at high risk for contracting the virus, such as those traveling to the Southern Hemisphere, according to the CDC.

CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that for the 2010–2011 flu season, children aged 6 months to 8 years who did not receive any doses of a monovalent 2009 influenza A(H1N1) vaccine should receive two doses of a 2010-11 seasonal influenza vaccine, regardless of previous influenza vaccination history.

The 2009 H1N1 virus, which was first identified April 2009, will be included in the 2010-2011 seasonal influenza vaccine starting this fall, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that the Northern Hemisphere’s 2010–2011 seasonal influenza vaccine contain the following three vaccine viruses:

  • an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)–like virus,
  • an A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)–like virus, and
  • a B/Brisbane/60/2008–like virus.

Approximately 170 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine expected to be available in the United States this year should begin shipping sometime in late September, according to an ACIP June 2010 meeting presentation.

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