Swine-Flu Update: Vaccine Shortage

Swine-Flu Update: Vaccine Shortage: ”

The H1N1 flu is now widespread in 46 states — it’s as if we’re at the peak of the flu season, as this flu tracker shows. Yet as of Friday, only about 16 million doses of swine flu vaccine had been shipped to U.S. warehouses; officials had previously estimated that there would be 40 million doses by the end of October.

Some manufacturers, including Novartis and Sanofi-Aventis, initially saw a low yield from the seed strain of virus used to grow the vaccine, the WSJ notes. Another manufacturer, CSL, is based in Australia, and filled orders there before shipping to the U.S., the New York Times reports.

The supply is likely to grow rapidly as manufacturers get the kinks worked out. But the key question is how the flu will spread between now and the time — probably a few months from now — when there’s enough vaccine for everyone who wants it. “We expect this influenza will occur in waves,” the CDC chief said on Friday. “We can’t predict how high, how far, or how long the wave will go or when the next will come.”

Bonus Flu: President Obama on Saturday declared a national emergency for H1N1 flu. The main point officials seemed to be pushing on this front: This is just a way to make it easier for hospitals to set up off-site treatment centers, and it’s not really as bad as it sounds (a national emergency was also declared during the presidential inauguration, for example). Or, as a USA Today headline said, “‘National emergency’ for H1N1 no cause for alarm, experts say.”