No timetable yet for H1N1 vaccines on bases in Europe
Defense Department officials said this week they don’t know when H1N1 the influenza vaccine will be available to the U.S. military community in Europe. But Europe Regional Medical Command officials said they anticipate the vaccine will be available sometime in November.
When it does arrive, there’s a chance the first doses will be for family members and civilians — and not active-duty members, even those getting ready to deploy.
Despite DOD’s intentions to get the vaccine to deploying troops as quickly as possible, the vaccine for dependents, if it arrives first, cannot be given to troops instead, according to DOD spokeswoman Cynthia Smith.
That’s due to “a variety of reasons,” Smith wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.
Military officials said the H1N1 vaccine is being provided through two vaccine programs. Sanofi-Pasteur is making the vaccine for nonuniformed beneficiaries, according to Europe Regional Medical Command. Priority groups for this vaccine include pregnant women, infants, children, teenagers and young adults, and older adults with underlying medical conditions.
Novartis is manufacturing the vaccine for active-duty personnel. Priority for this vaccine goes to deployed or deploying servicemembers and health care providers.
The vaccine is given as a shot and not as a nasal spray. Both companies use the same manufacturing processes and quality testing procedures for H1N1 vaccine, according to a medical command release.
This week, the DOD began receiving some vaccine for military personnel, and an initial shipment of vaccine for overseas dependents has arrived at DOD’s medical depot, Smith said. “The exact ship date, amounts to each location is not available at this time,” she wrote. “A direct shipment from the manufacturer to EUCOM is being explored.”
Production of the swine flu vaccine in the U.S. is running several weeks behind schedule, and, according to The Associated Press, health officials blame the delay on the pressure on pharmaceutical companies to produce more seasonal flu vaccine and a slow production process that relies on millions of chicken eggs.
With the delays of getting the vaccine to the public and the number of H1N1 cases rising, a group of U.S. researchers said the vaccinations will probably come too late to significantly reduce the number of infections. A Purdue University study published last week used mathematical models to predict that infections will peak this week, and that by the end of the year, 63 percent of the U.S. population will have caught the virus.
“The most optimistic assumptions about the (national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) vaccination campaign yielded a relative reduction of only 6% in the total number of infected individuals,” the study asserts.
But health officials say it’s difficult to predict the course of a pandemic.
“It is too early to determine when the peak occurs and too early to make that call right now,” said Col. Evelyn Barraza, ERMC preventive medicine consultant.
ERMC medical clinics are reporting influenzalike illness at a higher rate this year, officials said, especially in the 5- to 17-year-old age group.