About half the U.S. population should get vaccinated against H1N1 influenza and pregnant women and healthcare workers are among those who should be first in line to receive a vaccine, a U.S. vaccine-advisory panel recommended Wednesday.
Up to 160 million doses of flu vaccine will be available for the start of a vaccination campaign planned for mid-October. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that state and local health officials prepare to vaccinate as many as 160 million people, Reuters reports.
Aside from pregnant women, shots should be given first to those in close contact with infants under 6 months old, health and emergency medical services workers, children and young adults from 6 months old through age 24, and people under 65 years old with underlying medical conditions, the panel said. It made its recommendations to the CDC, which will review them and then disseminate them to state and local health departments to help them plan for vaccination efforts, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Although the number recommended to get doses exceeds the projected supply, health officials don't think everyone will run out and get vaccinated. Traditionally, less than half of the people recommended to get seasonal flu shots get them. Only about 15 percent of pregnant women get seasonal flu vaccinations.
In the meantime, the range of recommendations reflects how hard it is to plan for swine flu, officials said. Some health officials have compared the exercise to predicting a hurricane. The storm — or virus — is itself unpredictable; it could grow more dangerous or suddenly weaken. The availability of lifesaving supplies or vaccine can also affect survival.
"It's better to prepare and have the storm fizzle than to be sitting there with no way off the island when the tsunami rolls in," said Kristine Sheedy, a CDC communications specialist, The Associated Press reports.