US earmarks $1 bn for swine flu vaccine

May 23rd, 2009 - 5:45 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, May 23 (DPA) The US government Friday earmarked $1 billion to gear up for production of a vaccine to head off influenza A(H1N1), the so-called swine flu, in the autumn.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the money will be used for clinical studies over the summer expected to lead to the commercial-scale production of two potential vaccine ingredients.

“Our goal throughout this new H1N1 outbreak has been to stay one step ahead of the virus,” she said in a statement.

By Friday, the number of swine flu cases in the US had climbed to 6,500, including nine deaths.

The money would be taken from existing funds, and would be in addition to the $1.5 billion US President Barack Obama requested from Congress as the outbreak spread in late April. Some of that new money request would go toward replenishing and stockpiling new supplies of anti-viral drugs such as TamiFlu.

Some of the federal anti-viral stockpiles were distributed to states like New York and California over recent weeks to help the most vulnerable fight off the hitherto-unknown strain of the virus.

Health experts are struggling to understand this version of swine flu, which has genetic elements that come from three species - pigs, birds and humans - and has never been seen before.

Researchers are rushing to create a new vaccine for injections during the autumn in preparation for the winter flu season. While the current outbreak has been relatively mild, experts are bracing for a resurgent, more virulent strain when it returns in the cooler weather.

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