News of the WeekPUBLIC HEALTH

A Race Against Time to Vaccinate Against Novel H1N1 Virus

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Science  11 Sep 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5946, pp. 1328-1329
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_1328

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On 24 August, the White House released a report about the swine flu pandemic from a group of prominent scientists commissioned by U.S. President Barack Obama. The first report issued by the current President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), it made a stir because it highlighted a "plausible scenario" that the novel H1N1 virus could infect up to half the U.S. population in the next 6 months and kill as many as 90,000 people, most of them young. Some flu experts thought PCAST exaggerated the doomsday possibilities, and in the hubbub that erupted, a less contentious—and equally alarming—point of the report received scant attention: By the time a vaccine arrives, it may be too late to stop this wave of disease.