December 18th, 2009
12:09 PM ET

100 million H1N1 vaccine doses available, flu waning in U.S., officials report

By Miriam Falco
CNN Medical Managing Editor

The Department of Health and Human Resources says as of Friday, December 18, more than 100 million doses of H1N1 flu vaccine will have been made available for states to distribute. This news comes at a time when the so-called swine flu seems to be waning in the United States. It was just a few short weeks ago when the H1N1 flu virus was widespread, in 48 states, and people lined up for hours just to get one of these vaccinations. Now at least four states – Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota and Nebraska – are reporting "no activity" at all. This may lead many to think that the pandemic is over, that there's nothing to worry about any more. However health officials keep reminding us that flu is unpredictable and we're just now entering the earliest part of what is considered the beginning of a normal flu season.

Yesterday, health officials also announced the latest statistics on how many Americans were affected by H1N1. So far 47 million cases have been reported; nearly 213,000 hospitalizations; nearly 10,000 deaths; and five times more pediatric deaths than in a typical flu season.

Eight months after this global pandemic began, World Health Organization officials say that they are frequently asked whether the pandemic is over or another wave should be expected in late winter or early spring. "The answer is right now is that we simply are not able to answer this question," Dr. Keiji Fukuda, special adviser to the WHO's director-general on pandemic influenza, told reporters Thursday. He also said that even if the H1N1 flu seems to have peaked in North America, other countries such as Switzerland, France, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia are seeing high activity.

Perhaps more eye-opening was that Fukuda's announcement that six manufacturers and 12 countries had pledged 180 million doses of H1N1 vaccine, which would go to about 95 countries. The WHO had hoped to distribute these vaccines in late November or December, but that has now slid to sometime in the next few weeks. So the U.S. will have been able to distribute more than half of the number of vaccine doses as the WHO hopes to distribute to 95 different countries, most which couldn't afford to buy them themselves.

The question in the U.S. is, with more vaccine becoming more easily available, but flu activity dramatically down compared with just a month or two ago, will people who haven’t been vaccinated yet or gotten sick still get a flu shot or nasal spray?

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