Americans worried about the advance of H1N1 swine flu this fall got two doses of welcome news this past weekend: A potentially faster-than-expected roll-out for a vaccine, and good trial results on a new intravenous drug to fight influenza, the Associated Press reported.
Speaking on ABC's This Week on Sunday, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the first batches of an H1N1 vaccine could be available by the first week of October -- earlier than the mid-October delivery the federal government announced back in August.
"We're on track to have an ample supply rolling out by the middle of October. But we may have some early vaccine as early as the first full week in October," Sebelius said. "We'll get it to states as fast as it comes off the production lines," she added.
Supply of the vaccine should get an added boost from studies released last week that suggest that only one dose might be needed to confer protection against H1N1.
In related news, a trial in China of peramivir, an antiviral drug delivered intravenously, has found that the drug eased seasonal (regular) flu within less than five days, similar to the efficacy of the oral anti-flu drug Tamiflu, the AP reported.
The finding is important because very ill, hospitalized flu patients often cannot take medicines in pill form. "You can get it into the blood, into the lungs, where infection is occurring," Dr. Nancy Cox, chief of influenza at the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, told the AP.
The drug is being developed by BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, Inc., of Birmingham, Ala., along with the Japanese drug company Shinogi & Co.