H1N1 FLU BREAKING NEWS: Pregnancy and Dutch vaccine priorities, a call for flu 'czar' in Canada, minority patients in Boston

August 18, 2009

Dutch officials set flu vaccine priorities
Health authorities in the Netherlands said today they will administer novel flu vaccine starting in October to about 5 million to 6 million people who are at high risk for flu complications, Agence France-Presse reported. Priority groups include those with certain medical conditions, women with underlying conditions who are more than 4 months pregnant, and those older than 60. Officials said they aren't planning to vaccinate the whole population but have ordered vaccine for 16.5 million people.

Canadian experts call for 'health czar' to lead flu fight
Canada should have a "health czar" to lead a mass immunization campaign against the novel flu virus and streamline the deployment of equipment and staff needed to manage the epidemic, Dr Paul Hebert, editor-in-chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and his team wrote in an editorial yesterday. They said governments need laws that give leaders the power to rapidly respond to complex pandemic issues. He called for a summit to plot out the next public health response actions.

Minorities account for oversize share of Boston's flu hospitalizations
A disproportionate number of patients hospitalized with novel H1N1 flu infections in the Boston area have been African American or Hispanic, the city's public health officials have found, according to the Boston Globe. They speculate that urban crowding, high levels of chronic health conditions, and other issues related to poverty are contributing factors. Of 71 flu patients hospitalized, 49% were African American and 28% were Hispanic, rates double the groups' shares of the city population.
Aug 18 Boston Globe story

Chinese firm claims good results in clinical trial of H1N1 vaccine
The Chinese company
Sinovac Biotech said a single dose of its novel H1N1 vaccine generated an immune response and appeared safe in its first clinical trial, Bloomberg News reported today. The firm asserted that the product met "international criteria for vaccines" and caused no severe side effects in 1,614 volunteers. The company said the results were the first reported for any H1N1 vaccine clinical trial. No details were released on the immune responses to different doses.
Aug 18 Bloomberg story

Mozambique confirms first novel flu case
Mozambique's health ministry today confirmed the country's first novel flu case, in a 46-year-old woman who had recently traveled to South Africa, AFP reported. She is recovering at home. Meanwhile, a disease expert in South Africa said poverty, diseases such as HIV, and overburdened health systems make African countries vulnerable to the novel flu virus, according to another AFP report today. Ed Rybicki, a virologist, said the virus could spread undetected because of poor disease surveillance.
Aug 18 AFP story

Crucell gets NIAID contract for monoclonal antibody work
The Dutch pharmaceutical company Crucell announced today that it received a $40.7 million contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to continue developing monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of seasonal and pandemic flu. It contains an option for $28.4 million in additional funding. Crucell said the antibodies are active against seasonal H1N1 viruses, including antiviral-resistant strains, plus H5N1 and pandemic H1N1.
Aug 18 Crucell press release

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