WASHINGTON — Despite a surplus of 71 million doses of unused swine flu vaccine, the federal said
Monday that it is not time to discard them.
Federal Health and Human Services Department officials said providers should continue to make the
vaccine available to people until companies begin distributing seasonal flu vaccines for the upcoming flu season.
Experts said that some of the vaccines have a shelf life that extends into 2011 and that the vaccine
should still be made available since the current strain of swine flu may continue to affect people
through the remainder of 2010.
In a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked just how much
vaccine was still available and how soon it would expire. He said in his letter that the shelf life of the
vaccines ranges from as little as 18 weeks to as long as 18 months.
“I understand that it is not uncommon for some seasonal flu vaccines to be discarded every year, but the vaccines were paid for with taxpayer dollars,” Grassley said in the letter.
Up to 229 million H1N1 vaccine doses were initially ordered from five different manufacturers.
The CDC estimates that 12,000 Americans have died as a result of H1N1 or related causes, and more than 250,000 have been hospitalized.
HHS officials emphasized that they are advising states and other agencies to hold on to any remaining H1N1 vaccine until next year’s seasonal vaccine – which should include protection and coverage for the 2009 H1N1 – becomes available.