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10 November 2009 

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US Development of H1N1 Vaccine Hits Snag

10 November 2009

Health officials around the world say they are frustrated by the shortage of vaccine to protect against the H1N1 flu. The United States and other wealthy countries have promised to donate 10 percent of their supply to developing countries. But due to a global shortage, that has not happened yet.

Stephen Morrisson
Stephen Morrisson
So far, more than 400,000 people around the world have caught the H1N1 virus, and more than 6,000 have died. Stephen Morrisson at the Center for Strategic and International Studies calls the international commitment to combat the virus a watershed, and he still expects the wealthy nations to keep their promises.

"I have seen no evidence that there [has] been a decline or weakening of commitment to fulfill the 10 percent obligation," he said.

The problem boils down to an international vaccine shortage. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health says the shortage is a result of biology, not incompetence.

"You really can't do anything when you have a virus that doesn't grow well except trying to wiggle it around to get it grow better," Dr. Fauci said.

But Morrison says scientists have to find new ways to make vaccines.

"Production of vaccines remain highly uncertain and antiquated - there needs to be a focus on what kind of technological innovation can move us out of this antiquated possibility and make better use of other technologies that could accelerate production," he explained.

Manufacturing the H1N1 vaccine
Manufacturing the H1N1 vaccine
U.S. public health officials say there might not be enough H1N1 vaccine to meet the needs of the high risk population in the United States until December, and possibly not until January.

U.S.Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius says that will impact the timing of when the U.S. can donate vaccine to developing countries.

"The president clearly has made it clear that his priority is safety and security of American people, and immediately he also adds that we are a global partner, so we have joined now with 11 nations in terms of 10 percent of the vaccine will be available to developing countries," Sebelius said.

The World Health Organization plans to distribute the H1N1 vaccine to 95 developing countries. Distribution was supposed to start in November.

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