CDC: H1N1 is a young person's disease, vaccine production behind schedule

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PHOENIX -- Under pressure to make two kinds of flu vaccines at the same time, production facilities across the country say they're struggling to make enough of either one. While Arizona is feeling the shortage, state health officials say the vaccine is coming -- just later than expected.

A top-ranking official of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says production of a vaccine for swine flu virus is behind schedule and people should take precautionary steps to prevent its spread.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, who heads the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said "more vaccine is coming out every day" but production isn't where it was expected to be at this juncture. Interviewed on CBS's "The Early Show" Wednesday, Schuchat said "we wish we had more vaccine, but unfortunately the virus and the production of the vaccine aren't really cooperating."

For people anxious about getting their vaccinations, she said officials expect "widespread availability" by mid-November.

Dr. Karen Lewis of the Arizona Department of Health Services said the vaccine will eventually make its way to our state.

"Keep your ears open," she said. "It's going to be coming in more and more over the next few weeks. By the end of November, we expect about 1.5 million doses, and by January,  we should have about 4 million doses."

Lewis said January will not be too late to get vaccinated.

"H1N1 is likely going to keep on circulating until March or April, and then seasonal influenza is going to start appearing in December or January," she explained.

Lewis does advise getting both vaccines, but says Arizonans should not necessarily wait to get them together.

"Get them when you can," she said. "You don't have to get them together. They're both very good. It's important to get both because the one [vaccine] doesn't protect against the other [virus]."

As for the CDC's study showing that H1N1 is primarily a young person's disease -- more than 50 percent of those hospitalized across the country are 25 years old and younger -- Lewis said that what officials in Arizona are finding, too.

"Only 2 percent of our cases in Arizona are 65 and above, probably because years ago they were infected with a similar strain and have immunity," she said.

That data is why children are a higher priority for getting the vaccine.

Some people have expressed concern about the safety of the H1N1 vaccine, including a group of Chandler firefighters who have opted to pass on it.

"I've seen the disease," said Lewis, who is an infectious disease doctor. "The disease is nasty. The vaccine is very good and safe. I encourage the vaccine for everyone."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.