WASHINGTON - SCIENTIFIC advisers to President Barack Obama may have asked the government to speed up the availability of swine flu vaccines, but they are unlikely to be ready before October, the new head of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.
And imperfect tests for the pandemic H1N1 virus means it will be impossible to get precise numbers on how many people are infected, said Dr Thomas Frieden.
Nonetheless, swine flu is the No. 1 priority for the CDC, Dr Frieden said in an interview.
'We have literally mobilized more than 1,000 people at CDC who work on H1N1,' Dr Frieden said in the interview, conducted by Reuters and Associated Press to be aired on the C-SPAN television network on Sunday.
On Monday, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology said the government should speed up the supply of swine flu drugs and vaccines, making at least some shots available by mid-September.
The group also said the government should take advantage of the pandemic to improve flu surveillance.
Dr Frieden said it was unlikely vaccines against H1N1 could get out to the public sooner than mid-October, when mass vaccination is scheduled to start.
'We wish we had new vaccine technology that would allow us to turn on a dime and make new vaccine in terms of weeks or months. It's not possible with today's technology to do that,' he said.
Five companies are making swine flu vaccine for the US market - AstraZeneca's MedImmune unit, CSL Ltd, GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Novartis AG and Sanofi-Aventis SA. Tests have begun to determine if people will need one or two doses to be protected. -- REUTERS