The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week approved the nation’s first vaccine for people against the potentially fatal H5N1, or avian flu, virus.
The vaccine may provide early limited protection to individuals during a flu pandemic until a vaccine tailored to the particular pandemic strain could be developed and produced, FDA officials said. A clinical study found that 45 percent of individuals who received two doses of the vaccine developed antibodies at a level that is expected to reduce the risk of getting avian flu.
The vaccine is intended to immunize people from 18 to 64 years old who could be at higher risk of exposure to the H5N1 flu virus contained in the vaccine. Unlike the mild to serious symptoms caused by seasonal flu, the symptoms of the H5N1 virus are far more severe and can quickly cause life-threatening complications such as pneumonia and the failure of organs.
Global pharmaceutical firm Sanofi-Aventis manufactured the vaccine, which the U.S. government is stockpiling for distribution by public health officials in the event of a pandemic. The vaccine will not be sold to the public.
"The threat of an influenza pandemic is, at present, one of the most significant public health issues our nation and world faces," said FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach, MD. "The approval of this vaccine is an important step forward in our protection against a pandemic."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is working on measures to spare vaccine doses to help produce more treatments for individuals, and the agency has developed rapid diagnostics tests for H5 strains that shorten testing times,said HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt. "We have the opportunity to be the first generation that prepares for a pandemic, and we are working to meet that challenge," Leavitt said,
You may find more resources to help you, your family and your community prepare for pandemic flu at www.getreadyforflu.org. You may find more information on government pandemic preparedness efforts at www.pandemicflu.gov.
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