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H1N1 (Swine Flu): What A Difference A Low Mortality Rate Makes…Expired H1N1 Flu Vaccine to be Tossed

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About 40 million doses of the H1N1 influenza A vaccine — about 25% of the amount produced last year — are slated to be destroyed after they expired June 30, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Published reports put the estimated cost of the expired doses at $260 million, but HHS has defended federal decisions early in the pandemic regarding vaccine production, noting that those decisions were based on information that was available at the time.

Their theory was that it was best to have been prepared for the worst-case scenario than to have too few doses of the vaccine.  Of course on hindsight, with a 20/20 lens it is easy to criticize but no one, even the critics, could have predicted how H1N1 would have evolved back in April and May of 2009.

There are about 30 million doses or more that have longer expiration dates, many of which go as far as 2011.  HHS is urging health care providers to hold on to unexpired vaccine until a sufficient supply of the upcoming trivalent seasonal flu vaccine. The trivalent preparation will contain the following influenza virus strains: A/California/7/2009 (H1N1); A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2); and B/Brisbane/60/2008. The same trivalent vaccine is being used right now in the southern hemisphere.

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