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Obama Declares National Swine Flu Emergency

POSTED: Monday, October 26, 2009 - 6:43am

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 10:58pm

This week hospitals in the U.S. have new power to manage their own response to the swine flu pandemic. This after President Obama, this weekend, officially declared it a national emergency.

The White House says the declaration does not signal an unexpected worsening of the outbreak. And it does not solve the most pressing concern: a big shortfall in the supply of H1N1 vaccine. At swine flu vaccination clinics this weekend, long lines and a lot of concern.

But demand for the vaccine continues to outstrip supply. Clinics in Chicago ran out of vaccine within a few hours. So far the virus has sent 20,000 Americans to the hospital. Under the president's emergency declaration, hospitals may set up alternate treatment sites in case there's an influx of more.

The declaration does not affect production of the vaccine. It's rolling out at half the rate health officials had predicted. "The virus does not grow very well in the process, which is an egg based process. So there's a significant delay in the total quantity that we expected this early on," said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Experts are confident the vaccine is a match. "This vaccine induces a robust response with a single dose of the standard amount in individuals so it will work once we get it out," said Fauci.

Good news for those who've made it to the front of the line and millions more awaiting their turn. Health experts say within the next month up to ten million doses of vaccine per week will ship to states. The government is getting less specific with its predictions, because of delays in the process so far.