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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Swine Flu vaccine - tough decisions

While not exactly a cardiology issue, I find the current outbreak of swine flu fascinating. It is an opportunity to learn about the seasonal flu too.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1/2 million people die every year from seasonal flu.

For drug makers to make enough vaccine to prevent us all from the swine flu, drug makers would need to stop making regular flu vaccine to make enough vaccine to handle pandemic swine flu.

We know that the seasonal flu vaccine saves millions of lives every year. We don't know how bad the swine flu pandemic will be and if the vaccine will work.

The decisions that will need to be made over the coming weeks will be difficult ones. Does the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) instruct the drug companies to stop manufacting the seasonal flu vaccine and make swine flu vaccine instead?

I am a big proponent of the seasonal flu vaccine. I prescribe it to all my cardiac patients. I also encourage all my co-workers to get one since all health care workers are at increased risk. Even so, I'm not sure what the right answer is.

I would appreciate your comments on this issue.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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