Thursday, January 21, 2010

CDC Estimates 2009 H1N1 Vaccine Coverage in the U.S. at 20.3%

Many western countries, including the U.S. have reported a surplus of H1N1 vaccines due to low demand. During December 2009 and January 2010, the CDC analyzed results from the National 2009 H1N1 Flu Survey (NHFS) and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey to estimate 2009 H1N1 vaccination coverage to date for the 2009-2010 influenza season.

The results indicated that, as of January 2, an estimated 20.3% of the U.S. population (61 million persons) had been vaccinated, including 27.9% of persons in the initial target groups. An estimated 29.4% of U.S. children aged 6 months-18 years had been vaccinated.

Vaccination survey shows gaps
The CDC vaccination report also shows that as of Jan 2, 90% of adults under age 65 with chronic medical conditions that increase their risk of flu complications still had not been vaccinated. Over the past several weeks the CDC has emphasized how vulnerable this group is: three-fourths of adults hospitalized with pandemic flu infections had an underlying condition such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or diabetes.

Vaccine uptake in healthcare workers, slated to receive the very first doses of the vaccine, was also disappointingly low: Only 22% reported having been vaccinated. The number was even lower than for seasonal flu vaccine, which has historically been below 50%.

The survey also showed worrisome signs of racial disparity, even among healthcare workers.

However, the vaccine survey also had some positive findings. For example, vaccine uptake in pregnant women was 38%, which is higher than typically seen for the seasonal flu vaccine. However, the CDC warned that the confidence interval for the uptake number was large and that a separate system is collecting more data on pregnant women to give officials a better estimate of pandemic vaccine uptake.

Recently some members of the Council of Europe, a 47-nation group that works for European integration, charged that H1N1 has been a "false pandemic"—a threat exaggerated by the WHO and governments under improper influence from vaccine manufacturers. Though WHO and national public health officials, as well as industry groups, have emphatically denied the accusations, it could be a contributing factor to some people's skepticism in seeking out the vaccine.

The CDC expressed that now that an ample supply of vaccine is available, efforts should continue to increase vaccination coverage among persons in the initial target groups and to offer vaccination to the rest of the U.S. population, including those aged ≥65 years.


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