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Potency level prompts H1N1 recall

Health department calls for widespread vaccination

POSTED December 18, 2009 10:39 p.m.
In the same week that a French pharmaceutical company recalled H1N1 influenza vaccines for children, U.S. health officials are recommending all Americans get a shot to ward off a third wave of the swine flu.
Sanofi Pasteur, a French manufacturer of the H1N1 vaccine, recalled 800,000 doses of the vaccine still on shelves because the potency level may have decreased. The vaccines under recall are meant for children 6 months to 3 years of age.
The Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration have both stated there is no safety concerns for children who were given the vaccine and despite the reduced potency, they believe the vaccine will provide the needed protection.
The CDC has previously stated that for the best protection against the virus, children under 10 years should get two vaccine shots about one month apart.
In California, 159 health care providers received approximately 50,000 doses of the recalled vaccine, which accounted for about 9 percent of the state’s total supply.
Stanislaus County received about 700 doses of the recalled vaccine, according to the county public health department. Stanislaus County Public Health Officer Dr. John Walker said the vaccine recall was not a cause for alarm because the recall was not related to a safety issue, but rather the potency level.
Merced County received 400 doses last week and the remaining 117 will be returned to the state, according to the public health department.
According to the CDC, all vaccines are thoroughly tested prior to release and shipping to determine that they meet all manufacturer and FDA standards for purity, potency, and safety, and the affected vaccine met all specifications at the time of release.
In other H1N1-related news, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is advocating all Americans receive a H1N1 vaccine shot.
The number of H1N1 influenza cases has decreased recently in the last month, but health officials are worried there could be another wave of infections brought on by the busy holiday travel season. The virus is still widespread in 14 states, down from 48 in mid-October.
“We finally have enough vaccine that for most of you, it’s your turn,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said during a recent press conference. “We have the chance to lessen the impact or prevent a third wave.”
Health care providers through out the country had been beleaguered by vaccine shortages during the peak of the H1N1 outbreak in October. Initially, the vaccines were only being administered to those with the highest risk of developing serious complication. Those groups included pregnant women, children, young adults, and people with underlying health conditions.
The Stanislaus County Health and Human Services Agency is hoping to open a public clinic during the first of the new year for anyone in the general population who wants a vaccine shot, but it is dependent on the need of vaccine by health care providers in the county.
“If we hear from the doctors that they have vaccinated enough of the high-risk population, then we can open a public clinic,” Walker said.
The United States has ordered about 250 million doses of the vaccine, according to the Health and Human Services Department.
As of Dec. 12, there have been 7,794 hospitalized cases of the H1N1 virus and 417 deaths in California.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.
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