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H1N1 Flu in Review: The HHS response

September 28, 2019

In the spring of 2009, public health officials were alerted to an unusual outbreak of influenza. DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT:
Tuesday we reported that we had confirmed two cases of influenza that were swine flu
in children in California. NARRATOR:
On April 23rd, 2009 the CDC announced that this strain of influenza had not been seen
before in the U.S. or anywhere in the world. It was a new strain of flu. DR. RICHARD BESSER: Today Mexico’s minister of health confirmed
that they have cases of swine influenza in people, and that they believe some of the
people who were infected died from swine influenza. NARRATOR:
The world was confronted with a new flu virus to which it appeared no one had immunity.
The potential existed for a severe pandemic. The public health community responded. SEC. SEBELIUS:
Last night, I arrived in Washington and immediately after my swearing-in met with officials from
the White House to discuss the national response to the flu outbreak. DR. RICHARD BESSER:
Yesterday we announced the release of materials from our Strategic National Stockpile SEC. SEBELIUS:
Currently the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are developing virus
reference strains. HHS and the Food and Drug Administration will monitor the manufacturing
of a potential vaccine and conduct strict oversight to insure that the vaccine is safe
and effective for use. As a vaccine manufacturing is underway, the NIH will also conduct clinical
trials to make sure that the best dosage and formulation of the vaccine is available. PRES. OBAMA: Over the last week, my administration has
taken several precautions to address the challenge posed by the 2009 H1N1 flu virus. NARRATOR:
Those precautions included disseminating public health recommendations through a variety of
media…and developing a candidate vaccine virus in less than three weeks. By June, there
were 18,000 cases of H1N1 flu in the U.S. DR. TOM FRIEDEN:
W.H.O. has officially declared us to be in a pandemic. NARRATOR:
In July of 2009, scientists and public health experts from across the country came together
in a Pan Flu Summit at N.I.H. to discuss the most effective ways to minimize the impact
of the H1N1 flu. SEC. SEBELIUS
We’re aggressively planning for a vaccination program. NARRATOR:
The National Institutes of Health directed clinical trials of the H1N1 flu vaccine beginning
in August. Trials were conducted on adults, children, pregnant women, and individuals
with underlying health conditions. ARTHUR FERGENSON:
I believe this is something that this federal government and this administration is doing
correctly. And I hope that the American people will support the government and support their
fellow citizens by getting immunization to the H1N1 virus in the order that they are
supposed to take it, and will follow up. NARRATOR:
HHS announced it was making $350 million available in grants to state and local agencies for
pandemic preparedness resources and activities. HHS and the public health community continued
to spread the word on not spreading the flu. PRES. OBAMA:
As I said when we saw the first cases of this virus back in the spring, I don’t want anybody
to be alarmed, but I do want everybody to be prepared. We know that we usually get a
second, larger wave of these flu viruses in the fall, and so response plans have been
put in place across all levels of government. For all that we do in the federal government,
however, every American has a role to play in responding to this virus. DR. JAY BUTLER:
The FDA has licensed the H1N1 vaccine from four of the five manufacturers. We also have
data now that there’s a good antibody response to the vaccines. DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT;
So, we are now up to 76 children having died from the 2009 H1N1 virus. To put that in context,
the past three years, the total pediatric influenza deaths ranged from 46 to 88. NARRATOR:
Although the production and delivery of vaccine was slower than hoped, three million doses
of nasal spray vaccine were available in October as state and local agencies began holding
H1N1 flu shot clinics. Media campaigns encouraged the public to get vaccinated and answered
questions about the risks and benefits of the vaccine. LARK McCARTHY
So, talk about ingredients…some of these words that raise concerns. JESSE GOODMAN
Well, the main ingredient in the vaccine is a purified protein from the virus, okay? That
is what stimulates you to have a response that can protect you against the virus. DR. TONY FAUCI:
If this H1N1 pandemic influenza virus had appeared in November or the beginning of December,
we would have incorporated it into one of the components of the seasonal flu, and no
one would be asking the question, “Is this a brand new vaccine for a brand new virus?”
Because the viruses change each year and we change the vaccines each year. NARRATOR:
In the month of November, H1N1 influenza was widespread in 48 states. People under the
age of 24 accounted for ½ of flu-related hospitalizations. The number of vaccine doses
available grew from 35.6 million to 54 million two weeks later. By the beginning of December
about 46 million people had been vaccinated, and states reported fewer new cases of influenza. DR. TOM FRIEDEN:
We’re going from a time where there was lots of disease and not enough vaccine to a time
where disease is gradually decreasing and we’re having a steady increase in the amount
of vaccine that’s available. ANNE SCHUCHAT:
Many people are still susceptible to this virus and would benefit from vaccination.
We want to avoid complacency. Today I’m happy to say that we have a very good supply
of the H1N1 vaccine all around the country. Going forward, the H1N1 virus is still circulating
in the U.S. and we expect it to continue to circulate for some time. We need to stay vigilant. NARRATOR:
Current estimates are that 15% of the U.S. population has been infected with the 2009
H1N1 virus, resulting in some 365,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 deaths. Between 72 and 81 million
Americans were immunized for H1N1 flu by mid-February – including one-third of all children.
The close cooperation between federal, state, and local agencies that allowed an effective
response to the 2009 H1N1 flu makes the U.S. better prepared to meet public health challenges
in the future.

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