A top-ranking official of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says production of a vaccine for swine flu virus is behind schedule and people should take precautionary steps to prevent its spread.
Dr. Anne Schuchat said "more vaccine is coming out every day" but production isn't where it was expected to be at this juncture. Interviewed on CBS's "The Early Show" Wednesday, Schuchat said "we wish we had more vaccine, but unfortunately the virus and the production of the vaccine aren't really cooperating."
For people anxious about getting their vaccinations, she said officials expect "widespread availability" by mid-November. Schuchat heads the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Vaccine manufacturers have told CDC to anticipate at least 25 percent less vaccine than the 40 million doses originally promised by the end of the October. Only about 28 million doses are now expected by month's end, CDC officials said.
The problem, the manufacturers said, is that the yield of antigen, the substance that triggers infection-fighting antibodies, has been lower than expected.
The best advice is for people to check with their state and local health officials, including their own doctors, to see when the vaccine might be available in their area. Schuchat acknowledged at a press conference last week that the vaccine delays might be frustrating for people alarmed by reports of serious illness and death caused by swine flu.
"It will be pretty challenging to find vaccine," Schuchat said. "It's not enough considering the demand we're seeing."
The delay comes even as the H1N1 virus is causing more hospitalizations and deaths, primarily in people younger than 25. Data from 27 states reported that nearly 5,000 people had been hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed cases of H1N1 between Sept. 1 and Oct. 10. Nearly 300 people had died in that same period, according to confirmed reports from 28 states, Schuchat told reporters Monday.
Those figures underestimate the actual toll of the disease, Schuchat added.
"This is really, really different from what we see from seasonal flu," she said.