H1N1 vaccine puts focus on calls for faster delivery

The United States expects 200 million doses of H1N1 flu vaccine by the end of the year, the result of a process that occurred at "unprecedented speed" since H1N1 was detected in April, two top government officials told congressional committees in September.

Usually, seasonal flu vaccine takes at least a month longer to make and deliver. The 200 million H1N1 flu doses being produced — which will expand by another 50 million in the spring — is almost twice the number of flu vaccine doses typically made for the United States.

But the vaccine process could've been faster, flu experts told USA Today — and probably will have to be to battle the next flu pandemic, which may create more severe illnesses than this one has.

U.S. officials expect to receive 40 million doses of H1N1 flu vaccine by mid-October. That's down from earlier projections of 120 million doses in the same time frame, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says.

Some consumers who want to be vaccinated in the coming days will not find vaccine available, health officials say. And while vaccine trickles into communities across the nation, flu cases already are widespread in more than half the country — meaning the vaccine will arrive too late for some.

The past six months, "everything was done that could be done to get vaccine out the door," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. "But if this virus was killing more of its victims, there'd be lots of questions about whether this vaccine was [produced] soon enough."