Video: Swine flu deaths among kids mount

  1. Closed captioning of: Swine flu deaths among kids mount

    >>> al, thank you. now to the swine flu and the largest one-week jump in the number of child deaths in six months. nbc's chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman is here with the very latest. nancy, good morning to you.

    >> good morning, meredith. the information from the cdc is really quite straightforward. there's more h1n1 expected, more vaccine, and more antiviral treatment.

    >> i'm at the end of the line . fy was five minutes later i would have had to drive back home again.

    >> reporter: like the growing lines of people waiting for the h1n1 vaccine.

    >> the line has not moved and it is hot and they have pregnant women in the heat.

    >> reporter: the virus itself continues to spread. in the u.s., h is n 1 is now robust in 48 states .

    >> it is a terrible epidemic and we know that kids are getting sick and parents are getting frustrated but we're working our way through this problem.

    >> reporter: that includes making more of the h1n1 vaccine available. last week just over 16 million doses were shipped. this week, more than 26 million will be available, an increase of more than 10 million doses.

    >> children are a top priority particularly children with underlying health conditions.

    >> reporter: last week, 19 children died of h1n1 , bringing the total of 114 nationwide since the virus first appeared back in april. two-thirds of those children had an underlying medical condition . but it highlights the fact that so far, h1n1 has been a young person 's flu. the cdc's also releasing its entire national stockpile of pediatric tamiflu to account for a recent shortage in the liquid. as working with pharmacists nationwide make even more tamiflu .

    >> once the flu presents, tamiflu can reduce the symptoms but there is no taking in it advance to shield you.

    >> reporter: so far the cdc says virtually all cases of influenza have been h1n1 which means the virus hasn't mutated -- good news for people concerned about the effectiveness of the h1n1 vaccine.

    >> genetically the virus has not changed. it is still closely matched with vaccine. we have not seen mutations that would suggest that it would become more deadly.

    >> if you're 25 or 64 and you're hiltthy, we're sorry but you will not get the vaccine today.

    >> reporter: but with shortages of the h1n1 vaccine still widespread and lines still growing, so, too, are frustrations.

    >> there's no organization at all. it's shameful.

    >> the government says it hopes that the supply from the h1n1 vaccine will meet demand later this week and that's welcome news for a lot of people who have been turned away from those lines at those vaccine distribution centers .

    >> i want to talk about some of the numbers we've seen with kids. 114 children have died so far since april, 19 last week alone. that's the highest number reported since the disease first showed itself in this country. why the spike now? what's going on?

    >> i think we'll see this in waves. we had an early wave in the spring, senator wave -- there will be another wave later in the fall. i think what we have to drive home is while we've talked about children with underlying medical conditions , there are a jut of kids, just asthma. two-thirds of kids with underlying medical conditions means a third of children who are otherwise healthy with no underlying problems whatsoever. but we'll see more.

    >> you talk about we'll see this up-and-down with the disease. does that mean we'll never quite be out of the woods when it comes to h1n1 ?

    >> no, i think next year this will probably be rolled into the regular old seasonal flu shot. but while it is new and so many people under the age of 23 who haven't seen this before, their immune systems will be more challenged, so expect more. i do think we'll see this in waves.

    >> experts from the world health organization have concluded that children may now need just one shot and not a boost, though there are more studies to be done. where does that stand at this point?

    >> what the w.h.o. is now saying if you are in fact deficient in doses, you may consider just giving kids one dose. we've said basically kids under the age of 10 should have a shot, then a booster. but if in fact we have short supply, perhaps consider giving kids just one. our government is saying we're going to wait to look at our data, right now not changing our recommendations and we'll let you know in a week or so. right now in this country children over the age of 6 months but under the age of 10, two shots. children over the age of 10 and adults still one shot.

    >> the government is also saying a total of 26.6 million vaccines have been made available for this week. that's up 10 million from seven days ago.

    >> right.

    >> which is a good sign. they say they're closing the gap between supply and demand , but we were told months ago that we needed 120 million doses so these numbers --

    >> don't viv.

    >> they don't add up at all.

    >> no, we're way short. what cat bean sebelius said, look, manufacturers told us they would have those numbers. we then told the american public we would have those numbers and we are falling very short.

    >> then are we making up this other number of 28 million where that's all we need now?

    >> no. they're rolling it out as fast as they can. the goal is still to get up to 100 million but we may not see that until december.

    >> they say they'll get up to that in a week.

    >> they're not going to have it in a week. hopefully we'll have another 20 million and we'll see i think 10 million to 20 million a week as a roll-out, hopefully getting to the maximum dose they expected by mid-winter. the concern is of course the families who are right now juggling sick kids with not having enough vaccine around. it is a frustration all the way around.

updated 11/2/2009 2:17:26 PM ET 2009-11-02T19:17:26

Independent health advisers begin monitoring safety of the swine flu vaccine on Monday, an extra step the government promised in this year's unprecedented program to watch for possible side effects.

Decades of safe influenza inoculations mean specialists aren't expecting problems with the swine flu vaccine, because it's made the same way as the regular winter flu vaccine. But systems to track the health of millions of Americans are being tapped to make sure — to spot any rare but real problems quickly, and to explain the inevitable false alarms when common disorders coincide with inoculation.

U.S. health officials have spotted no concerns to date, Dr. Bruce Gellin, head of the National Vaccine Program Office, told The Associated Press.

A specially appointed working group of independent experts will track the vaccine's safety, too. Although the group will deliberate in private meetings, starting Monday, its charge is to raise a red flag if members feel the feds miss anything.

"Given the rapidity with which this particular vaccine was rolled out, there seems to be an extra-special obligation to make sure things remain as uncomplicated as they have in the past," Dr. Marie McCormick of the Harvard School of Public Health, who chairs the working group, told the AP.

Vaccinations against the new flu, which scientists call the 2009 H1N1 strain, have begun more slowly than the Obama administration had hoped, with long lines for the nearly 27 million doses divided around the country so far. More is on the way, even as swine flu cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.

Extra scrutiny
How many ultimately line up depends in part on public confidence in the vaccine's safety. While vaccine side effects always are monitored, the H1N1 inoculations are getting extra scrutiny in part because the last mass vaccinations against a very different swine flu, in 1976, were marred by reports of a rare paralyzing condition, Guillain-Barre syndrome.

A report in The Lancet British medical journal on Friday said the intense monitoring will be crucial for an additional reason: separating normal disease rates from real vaccine risks. For example, 2,500 miscarriages occur every day in the U.S., and about 3,000 heart attacks — and some are sure to coincide with vaccination yet not be caused by it.

Video: Is the H1N1 vaccine too late? Monday, McCormick's group will hear safety data from studies of the swine flu vaccine in more than 10,000 people, some conducted by the government and others by manufacturers.

"To date, no serious adverse events have suggested any safety signals with H1N1 vaccines," says a summary of the data — although it cautions that the studies aren't large enough to rule out any very rare risk.

That's where the additional monitoring comes in.

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Initial reports to a beefed-up government database — where anyone can report any symptom, and serious ones get intense investigation — showed nothing unusual after the first 10 million vaccinations, Gellin said. Most reports were of sore arms and fever, plus some flu symptoms that suggested people already were infected when they got the shot, too late for it to help.


Gellin said one report of a death turned out to be caused by swine flu itself, not vaccine.

Other monitoring includes linking large insurance databases to state vaccine registries to track who visits a doctor and why after the shot, a program covering about 20 million people. Plus, there's specially targeted tracking of pregnant women, and work to tell if the risk of Guillain-Barre — which regularly strikes about 1 in every 100,000 people — really is increased slightly by flu vaccine or not.

If serious problems were to crop up, federal law makes vaccine manufacturers and health officials immune from lawsuits. But it allows for a compensation fund for proven serious side effects, just as happens today with routine child vaccinations. Health and Human Services officials are developing such a program for swine flu vaccine, just in case it's needed, spokesman Bill Hall said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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