Selling of the H1N1 Vaccine: Phase 2

The U.S. is currently observing National Influenza Vaccination Week, in case you didn’t know, designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services. 

CDC H1N1 vaccine promotional ad/photo by Mitchel Zoler

As you might guess, the current edition of National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) is all about trying to get the H1N1 vaccine into the U.S. public, a goal that will need a few weeks of hindsight to gauge the Week’s success. This goal also faces a significant challenge now that the most recent wave of the H1N1 pandemic in the U.S. has dropped to a vanishingly small level, a juxtaposition I wrote about in a post here last week

But, as the CDC and HHS note in their NIVW promotions, the calendar says we’re nearing the hot zone of the traditional U.S. flu season, and how that will play out this year is anyone’s guess. A new wave of H1N1 infection is certainly possible, and might be prevented if lots more people get vaccinated. 

The federal government’s current promotion of NIVW is pretty remarkable, if only because of the full-page ads it’s run in several national and regional newspapers with an endorsement of the H1N1 vaccine signed by more than 30 U.S. health organizations. The CDC’s website includes a NIVW page with a long list of other promotional events and items, including a presidential proclamation, and an interesting mix of “ready-to-use”  articles that enterprising site-visitors are encouraged to try to place in local media outlets. 

As I noted in a post here last October, the U.S. Department of HHS, the CDC, and the federal government in general has committed a lot of effort, prestige, and reputation as well as several billions of dollars to make the 2009-2010 pandemic response work, and clearly that commitment remains in place.

What metric should we use to judge the results? The number of vaccine doses delivered? The number of influenza infections or deaths by the end of this spring? The latter is, of course, the only end point that matters, but that will depend largely on the virus itself. The number of vaccines administered is the outcome that the CDC and the public health community direct affects, and that will depend on how many people are persuaded to roll up their sleeves. 

—Mitchel Zoler (on Twitter @mitchelzoler) 

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Filed under Family Medicine, Health Policy, Infectious Diseases, Internal Medicine, Primary care

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