Half of U.S. should get H1N1 vaccination: officials

Wed Jul 29, 2009 7:37pm EDT
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By Matthew Bigg

ATLANTA (Reuters) - About half the U.S. population should get vaccinated against H1N1 influenza and pregnant women and healthcare workers should be at the front of the line, U.S. health advisers agreed on Wednesday.

Up to 160 million doses of flu vaccine will be available for the start of a vaccination campaign planned for mid-October. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that state and local health officials prepare to vaccinate as many as 160 million people.

Each person will likely need two flu vaccine doses and officials said it was not clear exactly how much vaccine would be available when.

"The main message is that it's half the population (who are the priority to be vaccinated). And it's the younger half of the population, as well as healthcare workers," Kathy Neuzil, the advisory committee's influenza work group chairwoman, said in an interview.

The group nearly unanimously accepted advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Health and Human Services Department almost always follow the advice of the committee.

The recommendations said pregnant women, people who care for babies, and healthcare workers should be the first protected against the virus -- a total of around 41 million people -- in the event that not enough vaccine is available.

Children between the ages of 6 months and four years were also included in that group. The vaccine was not recommended for infants under six months.

People at risk of serious complications from catching the flu should follow, including those with asthma, diabetes and heart disease -- and then healthy young adults aged 19 to 24, the panel said.   Continued...

<p>A researcher works on a vaccine for H1N1 flu virus at the Infectious Disease Laboratory at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia May 6, 2009. REUTERS/Tami Chappell</p>