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Production Problems Plague Delivery of Swine Flu Vaccine
Date:10/22/2009

al points in the complex process of developing a vaccine, especially for a virus that was first identified in April.

"It shows how there are many steps before you get a vaccine that's available -- the production, the testing, the packaging, the allocation and distribution. And there may be problems at every step, so as you go from one to the other to the other that slows things down," he said Thursday.

Sumaya was attending a meeting of the CDC advisory committee in Atlanta, where the experts were collecting information on vaccine supply and demand, as well as getting up to speed on the latest H1N1 developments, how the virus is spreading across the country, how many people have been hospitalized and how many have died.

In explaining the vaccine delay, Sumaya said that, first, the H1N1 virus did not grow as quickly as expected during a half-century old -- and often-criticized -- egg-based production technique.

Second, he said, "because there was kind of a rush to get things done, there were some packaging areas that they [federal officials] had thought wouldn't take long, yet they did."

"Even in the distribution, to find certain target groups so it reaches them first, we have to have a sense of what is going on across the country, which is a dynamic situation," he added.

Then there are the twin demands facing vaccine manufacturers to produce two different vaccines at the same time -- one for swine flu and one for seasonal flu.

"We're trying to provide recommendations on how they can improve the situation," Sumaya said.

In explaining the vaccine delay, Dr. Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response with the federal government's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, said in a statement: "We have said from the start that flu is unpredictable, and so is the production of flu vaccine. Production of the vaccine is taking longer than manufacturers expecte
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