US authorities are searching for volunteers to launch clinical trials of swine flu vaccines ahead of the northern winter flu season, officials said on Wednesday.
“We have undertaken a collaborative and efficient process of vaccine development that is proceeding in stepwise fashion,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The US is now the country worst hit by the outbreak of the A(H1N1) virus, with more than 40,600 cases reported across all 50 states and 263 deaths.
After isolating and studying the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention distributed the seed virus to manufacturers to start working on a vaccine.
Now they intend to “quickly evaluate these pilot lots to determine whether the vaccines are safe and to assess their ability to induce protective immune responses,” Fauci said in a statement.
Officials are worried that the arrival of the traditional flu season in the later months of the year could accelerate the number of cases around the nation.
“The trials are being conducted in a compressed time frame in a race against the possible autumn resurgence of 2009 H1N1 flu infections that may occur at the same time as seasonal influenza virus strains begin to circulate widely in the Northern Hemisphere,” the national institute said in a statement.
It added that initially volunteers should be aged between 18 and 64, or 65 and over. They would be given doses 21 days apart to test vaccines by two manufacturers, Sanofi Pasteur and CSL Biotherapies.
“If early information from those trials indicates that these vaccines are safe, similar trials in healthy children [aged six months to 17 years old] will begin,” the statement said.
In a separate trial, volunteers will be given the usual seasonal flu vaccine plus a dose of the A(H1N1) vaccine.