Safety and Distribution of the H1N1 Influenza Vaccine

Reading time: 4 – 6 minutes

Know What to Do About the Flu is a webcast series launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to hlep distribute timely and accurate information about the flu. Their goal is to distribute the latest facts and medical guidances so we can all be more effective in combating the spread of the flu and be better prepared should our families, our communities or our workplaces become affected.

In this edition, moderator Lark McCarthy discusses the level of testing prior to the H1N1 influenza A vaccine distribution and the subsequent monitoring that’s planned during and after the phases of distribution with Dr. Bruce Gellin, Director of the National Vaccine Program Office (NVPO) within the HHS, Dr. Jesse Goodman, acting chief scientist with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Harvey Fineberg, President of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and Dr. Anne Schuchat, Director of the Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This video was recorded on October 14, 2009.

H1N1 vaccine distribution

An article published earlier this week in the Washington Post questioned the shortage of H1N1 flu vaccine. Out of 80-120 million doses promised for mid-October by pharmaceutical companies, only ~16.5 millions doses have been delivered thus far [1]. According to the story, government officials relayed information on vaccine availability to the public as soon as manufacturers provided estimates. However, company representatives have said that the government was informed about production challenges are are on track for vaccine delivery.


Those production challenges included a slow growing vaccine. Flu vaccines are currently grown in eggs, a process that normally takes six months [2]. To reduce the production time, several biotech companies are working to develop large-scale cell culture methods that could potentially grow vaccines in several weeks as opposed to the six months required for egg-based production [2].

Nevertheless, according to a post earlier this week on The Patient Report (via the AP), 22 million more doses of H1N1 influenza vaccine are now available and the shortage should ease over the coming weeks. Per our list of what you need to know about the H1N1 vaccine, check with your doctor, you children’s school and/or your local health department regarding a list of locations where the H1N1 vaccine will be offered.

While you’re waiting for the vaccine to become available, remember to take these preventative measures against the H1N1 influenza virus:

  • Wash your hands often or use alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze! Dispose of promptly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth — these are areas where the virus can enter your body.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
  • Eat well and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Avoid sick people.

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  1. Why such a shortage of swine flu vaccine? The Washington Post. 2009 Oct 27.
  2. Gerdil C. The annual production cycle for influenza vaccine. Vaccine. 2003 May 1;21(16):1776-9.
    View abstract
  3. Singer E. Pandemic fears hatch new methods in flu vaccine industry. Nat Med. 2005 Jan;11(1):4.
    View abstract
About the Author

Walter Jessen, Ph.D. is a Data Scientist, Digital Biologist, and Knowledge Engineer. His primary focus is to build and support expert systems, including AI (artificial intelligence) and user-generated platforms, and to identify and develop methods to capture, organize, integrate, and make accessible company knowledge. His research interests include disease biology modeling and biomarker identification. He is also a Principal at Highlight Health Media, which publishes Highlight HEALTH, and lead writer at Highlight HEALTH.