Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oklahoma kids to get shot at swine flu vaccine

Published: July 24, 2009
The Oklahoman

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Some Oklahoma children will get a swine flu vaccine before it is available to the public. If clinical trials go well, the vaccine could be available in limited supplies by mid to late fall, experts said.

Apr 27 Dr. Kristy Bradley, state epidemiologist, talks about how swine flu is spread and what symptoms are associated with it.

But some officials fear the already fast-tracked studies may not be swift enough to curb the disease’s quick spread.

IPS Research in Oklahoma City is the first Oklahoma company to conduct the vaccination trials and will begin enrolling study patients Aug. 17, said IPS Research medical director Dr. Louise Thurman.

The trials will test the vaccine’s effectiveness and whether or not it has negative side effects in patients.

She anticipates about 200 children ages 3 to 8 will be able to enroll.

Patients accepted for the study will be administered a vaccine or placebo and are monitored through office visits and by phone. The study lasts 42 days and follow-up calls continue after that period.

Nationwide, 12,000 children will be given the vaccine for the trial, she said. The company should know today whether it will conduct adult trials, too.

"From a science standpoint, it should work,” Thurman said.

A race for a vaccine

"There is likelihood that we could have widespread disease in Oklahoma before we have a vaccine,” said Don Blose, chief of immunization services for the state Health Department.

He said the H1N1 strain spreads more quickly than other influenzas and more than half of the reported cases have been in children. Also, some antiviral drugs don’t work against the swine flu, he said.

This is why the studies are being allowed to progress more quickly than usual by the federal government.

According to Blose, the vaccine could be released in October or November. Those doses likely will go to at-risk and priority patients. He said federal health officials are working out those details and should have more information available in the coming weeks.

Blose said mass availability could come weeks or months later and as late as the first of the year if there are any delays.

Peak flu season is usually late fall, winter and early spring.

The vaccine probably will be administered in a two-dose series and will not supplant a seasonal flu vaccine, Blose said.

Likewise, a seasonal flu vaccine will not cover swine flu.

If the vaccines are not effective or if any problems are encountered in the production process, Blose said health officials will have to rely on backup plans: Washing hands, covering up coughs, avoiding crowds and ill persons staying at home.

But the best way, Blose said, is the vaccine.

The H1N1 virus has sickened about 200 people in Oklahoma and more than 40,000 nationwide.

It has resulted in 263 deaths, according to recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

The World Health Organization in June designated H1N1 as a level six pandemic, meaning the infection is widespread in the population.

According to the CDC, children and most adults don’t have any existing resistance to the disease and this has allowed it to spread more quickly.

However, some people older than 60 appear to have some antibodies, or immune resistance, to the strain.

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