160m doses of swine flu vaccine due in October
WASHINGTON - The United States expects to have 160 million doses of swine flu vaccine available sometime in October, even though manufacturers worldwide are having serious trouble making the shots, federal health officials said yesterday.
At the expected two doses per person, that amount would cover only a fraction of the populations that this new influenza strain is sickening the most - school-age children, teenagers, and young adults. More vaccine would trickle out over the following months.
But there is a bright spot: The United States has the world’s only nasal-spray flu vaccine, and FluMist’s maker announced yesterday that it is producing plenty of vaccine, but not enough sprayers, and proposes that it be administered by dropper instead.
The Food and Drug Administration called together five of the world’s leading flu vaccine makers yesterday - all the US suppliers - for the first in-depth progress report.
Companies making swine flu shots are struggling. The chief ingredient for influenza vaccine is grown in chicken eggs, and companies are getting far fewer doses per egg.
The World Health Organization said last week that it would try to get manufacturers some better-growing strains.
US estimates for its October supply took that problem into account, said Robin Robinson of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is buying the nation’s swine flu supply and will decide who should receive it.