WASHINGTON – The first doses of vaccine for the H1N1 flu virus will be available the first week of October, federal officials said Thursday, with millions more shipped every week after that.
“There will be enough vaccine for every American,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters at the White House.
The first 6 million to 7 million doses of the H1N1 will be available the first week, mostly in the form of nasal sprays, with a small amount available in injections. They’ll be shipped from five manufacturers to providers such as doctors, pharmacies and schools identified by state governments.
Some 40 million doses will be available by mid-October, and 10 million to 20 million more doses will be made available every week until the end of the year. All will be free, though some providers may charge fees for the service.
People will need to get two vaccines – one for the regular seasonal flu, and one for the H1N1 flu.
While officials say there eventually will be enough vaccine for everyone, they urged that healthy adults wait, so targeted groups of people most at risk from the flu – totaling 159 million – can go first.
The five targeted groups most at risk are:
Those who live with or care for children under the age of 6 months.
Health care and emergency service workers.
Those age 6 months to 24 years.
Anyone age 25 to 64 at higher risk due to chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.
However, pregnant women and children under 2 shouldn’t get the nasal spray. It’s made with a live, weakened virus, while the injected vaccine is made from inactive virus.
For people age 65 and older, the risk of H1N1 infection is considered lower.
Sebelius said the vaccine will work better and faster than originally thought. It will immunize most people against the flu in eight to 10 days, she said, and people will need to get only one dose of the H1N1 vaccine. Earlier, the government had thought people would need two doses and that it would take up to three weeks to be immunized.
Federal officials told reporters they’re confident the vaccine is as safe as those for regular flu – with normal side effects possible, such as sore arms. “There is a high degree of confidence in the safety,” Sebelius said.