Video: Sebelius: Having a vaccine ‘is very good news’

  1. Closed captioning of: Sebelius: Having a vaccine ‘is very good news’

    >> pentagon this morning.

    >>> here at home, health officials are fighting a different kind of battle against the swine flu . this weekend president obama officially declared it a national emergency . nbc's chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman is here with more on that. nancy, good morning to you.

    >> good morning, matt. the government insists this national emergency isn't meant to cause panic. instead, it allows the government to be more proactive when dealing with an increasing number of patients. but still, the h1n1 virus is spreading, and so is public concern.

    >> anybody who wants nasal spray ?

    >> reporter: it was a weekend of so-called swine lines.

    >> i did not expect it to be this busy.

    >> reporter: thousands of people across the country lining up for the h1n1 vaccine.

    >> i'm seven months pregnant.

    >> i keep hearing the statistics and just worried basically.

    >> reporter: so far in the u.s., 46 states have reported widespread flu activity. something the cdc calls extremely unusual for this time of year. the cdc also says more than 1,000 people have died in the u.s. since the swine flu first appeared back in april. and more than 20,000 have been hospitalized. now president obama has officially declared this virus outbreak a national emergency .

    >> things are getting steadily worse. more people are getting sick. more people are going to the hospital. more people are dying and we wanted to be prepared in case hospitals got a lot busier or more overwhelmed.

    >> we only have 400 and it's all out.

    >> reporter: but so far not everyone has had luck with actually getting the vaccine.

    >> please come back in november if you don't have it today. come back in november.

    >> i heard they were running real low. i didn't know they were going to be that low.

    >> as public health officials, vaccination is our strongest tool and not having enough of it is enormously frustrating to all of us.

    >> it is cold to be cold.

    >> reporter: still, officials insist more vaccine is on the way. something thousands of americans will likely greet with open arms .

    >> take a deep breath in -- blow it out.

    >> it's over.

    >> game over.

    >> the federal government had hoped there would be more than 100 million doses of the h1n1 vaccine by now but as of this weekend, only 11 million doses with available. still waiting for a roll-out but, matt, a long, long way to go. frustrating a lot of people.

    >> thank you very much. kathleen sebelius is the secretary of the u.s. department of health and human services . madam secretary, good morning, nice to see you.

    >> good morning, matt. good to be with you.

    >> this is a procedural proclamation on the part of the president, he calls it a national emergency . it gives hospitals some powers they didn't have before that. when you sit down with your experts, madam secretary, and they look to predict where this is going from here, in terms of the number of people infected and deaths from this virus, what's their best and worst case scenario ?

    >> well, matt, we know that a couple hundred thousand people are hospitalized each year with seasonal flu and about 36,000 people die. so this is presenting similarly to seasonal flu , and that's the parameters that we're looking at. we're hoping that with an effective vaccine, getting information out to people who are going to minimize that harm and that impact on the american public, and that's why the president wanted us to act quickly. he wanted us to get a vaccine in production and try to get it out to people as fast as possible.

    >> but as we know, it is not getting to people as fast as possible. there are a lot of frustrating setbacks here. when the government is promising that it's on the way, is that because the yields from the vaccine makers are spented to improve? or just every day they're making enough that it's going to slowly build up the stockpile?

    >> both are happening. yields are definitely improving. the growth yields are better than they were at the start, and as tom fried, the center for disease control dead has reminded up, even if you yell at an egg it won't grow the virus any faster. so we are dealing with lower production at first. we are also dealing with some glitches in new fill-and-finish lines. the good news is those have been corrected. so as of today we'll have a total of 16.5 million doses purnd o pushed out but the vaccine is coming out the door as fast as it's coming off the production lines.

    >> are you worried with the rate of infection you're seeing -- this is spreading very quickly -- by the time you get a real substantial amount of vaccine out there for people, it could be too late, that the virus will just have spread beyond what you can really handle?

    >> well, actually, matt, what we know is that in the spring we had a big wave . at first it died down a little bit, then we had a second wave. in the '50s, the last time we had a pandemic, the same kind of thing happened. a wave of virus, and then it came back. so we think that six months from the time that the virus was identified, having a vaccine that's effective and ready to go, having a vaccine that really takes effect in only one dose is very good news. i know people are frustrated standing in line. i would be enormously frustrated and anxious. there will be enough vaccine for everyone.

    >> you mentioned the spring. i just want to go back. remember in the spring there were some countries in mexico, for example, where they took much more aggressive steps to curb the spread of the virus. they shut down a lot of public facilities. they discouraged large gatherings of people. is there a contingency plan in this country, a level of infection where we have a plan like that that will go into effect?

    >> what we didn't know in the spring, matt, was how lethal this virus was going to be. it's unfortunate and tragic that we've had about 1,000 deaths. but frankly, this is not presenting in most people to be a seriously lethal disease, and that is good news. so right now, the public health officials weigh toward keeping schools open if there is enough personnel to do that, keeping people at work, healthy people at work, not shutting down things but asking sick people to stay home and try to contain the disease that way. washing hands and coughing, it's dangerous for kids often to not be in school, to not have a safe place to go, to not get fed on a regular basis. so knowing that we can contain this disease through vaccination and through mitigation, we're trying to lean toward keeping the business going.

    >> all right. health and human services secretary kathleen sebelius , madam secretary, thanks for your time this morning.

    >> good to visit with you.

    >>> coming up a little later

updated 10/26/2009 8:59:03 AM ET 2009-10-26T12:59:03

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday the swine flu vaccine "is coming out the door as fast as it comes off the production line."

But at the same time, she acknowledged delays in getting a sufficient supply for all those demanding it.

"We were relying on the manufacturers to give us their numbers and as soon as we got numbers we put them out to the public. It does appear now that those numbers were overly rosy," Sebelius said in one interview. "We do have a vaccine that works," she said. Sebelius said the immune response is working faster than officials anticipated.

Appearing Monday morning on nationally broadcast news shows, she said officials now have a supply of about 16.5 million doses of the vaccine, while conceding that's millions of doses below the amount needed.

Sebelius said she couldn't predict just how widespread the virus will be. Roughly a thousand people have died from it so far in the United States. But she also said officials do not believe there is yet any cause to close down schools and cease other daily activities.

President Barack Obama declared a health emergency over the weekend to give hospitals and health professionals more leeway from federal regulations to respond to the illness. And on Sunday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Congress would be happy to provide additional support and money on a bipartisan basis, if the need arises.

Video: Anger grows over vaccine delays Said Sebelius: "If we had found the virus a little earlier we could have started a little earlier."

Asked what advice she would give to people who have waited futilely in line for shots, the secretary replied, "I want them to come back."

"I hope that people aren't discouraged," she said. "I know it's frustrating to wait in line and particularly if you end up with no vaccine. We wish this could have been smoother, that we had a larger supply. We knew it would come in waves."

Sebelius sought to assure people that eventually there will be enough supplies "for everyone."

Dr. Anne Schuchat, who heads the Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said it's hard to predict how long the H1N1 wave will continue, so even getting vaccinated a few months from now — when vaccine supplies are more plentiful — won't be too late.

"It wouldn't be too late," she said. "We don't know how long this increase will go on. ... We might see another wave after the first of the year. I think it's important for people to take steps to protect themselves."

Sebelius appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America," CBS's "The Early Show" and NBC's "Today" show. Schuchat was interviewed on CNN.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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