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The St. Louis University Center for Vaccine Development

Thank you Rep. Clay.  Thanks also to Dr. Belshe, Dr. Frey, and of course to Father Boindi.

Like Lacy, I came to Washington directly from state government.  That kind of experience serves you very well in Washington.  You know the people you work for, and you know how to be effective in getting them what they need.   Protection from flu is no exception.

The 2009-2010 flu season officially began this year this past Sunday, but we’ve been seeing elevated flu activity for many months, and we’re seeing as much flu activity now as we normally see later at the height of flu season later in the fall and winter.

Visits to doctors for influenza-like illness increased not only in Missouri, but nationally for the sixth consecutive week, which is unusual for this time of year.

Almost all of flu circulating now is the new H1N1 virus.  And just as we saw in the spring and summer, it’s primarily children and young adults who are getting sick.  60 pediatric deaths related to 2009-H1N1 have been reported to the CDC since April 2009.

With seasonal flu still a concern, especially for older Americans, we may see many more Americans falling ill than we’ve seen in recent years.

The single best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu is to get vaccinated.

The federal government and our partners in the public and private sector across the country have been working for months on a coordinated response to the H1N1 virus.  As soon as the virus first hit in April, we began work to develop a vaccine and we were able to make important progress by working together to develop a safe and effective vaccine which has now be licensed for use by the FDA.

We are making this vaccine the same way we make seasonal flu vaccine. Had this virus arrived a little earlier in the year, we would have been able to include it as part of this year’s seasonal flu shot.

A critical part of our vaccine development process has been the clinical trials being done on the HIN1 vaccine through the National Institutes of Health and the private manufacturers.

I very much appreciated the opportunity to tour the center and see these important H1N1 vaccine trials in action.  There are only seven other Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units like Saint Louis University in the country.  The work you do—rapid clinical research in response to emerging infectious disease—is vital, not only to public health but to national security as well.

Thanks in large part to research done right here at Saint Louis University, we now know that our smallpox vaccine stockpile could be diluted up to five times and still protect people against this deadly illness, extending the supply and protecting more people.

Thanks in large part to these H1N1 clinical trials; we will be able to protect more people from 2009-H1N1 flu as well.

Right now researchers are running trials to determine the best time to give the H1N1 flu vaccine—at the same time, before, or after a seasonal flu vaccine.  We’re finding out the dosages of H1N1 vaccine that are best for pregnant women.

The information we are gathering here will help to ensure fewer people will get sick, fewer vulnerable people will get extremely sick, and fewer people will die.

The good news for all of us is that the H1N1 vaccine is now starting to become available across the country.

Yesterday two hospitals in Indiana and Tennessee administered some of the first doses of the new H1N1 flu mist to their health care workers. Today I have been informed limited amounts of vaccine will be available in some health departments and clinics right here in St Louis.

And the supply of H1N1 vaccine will keep coming slowly and steadily in the coming days and week as states begin to order and more vaccine comes on line. Right now the initial doses of the vaccine are all flu mist, which can only be given to healthy children and adults from ages 2 to 59. Pregnant women should not be given flu mist.

By the end of this week we should have some injectable vaccine available for ordering by the state.

Our early targets for vaccination will be our target groups of the populations who are at highest risk – health care workers, pregnant women, children, adults age 24 to 59 with underlying conditions, and caregivers of infants under six months.

But there will be enough vaccine so that every American who wants or needs to get vaccinated will be able to get the H1N1 vaccine.

Our job now is to help Americans get their questions and concerns about H1N1 and the H1N1 vaccine addressed.

We need to let people know that vaccines are safe, they’re effective, and as many people as possible need to get a shot in the arm or a spray of flu mist in their nose to stay healthy this flu season.  

Over the last two months, the federal government has released specific guidance for small and large businesses, schools, universities, childcare providers, and community and faith-based organizations.   

We’re trying to reach people in new ways. We’re reaching teenagers and young adults through Facebook and Twitter, and recently partnered with YouTube for a “What to Do About the Flu” PSA contest that garnered over 200 entries. We are now shipping our winning PSA out to TV stations across the country this week,  

We’ve also taped flu prevention PSAs in English and Spanish with members of Congress.  You’re going to see Rep. Clay’s PSA in a couple of minutes.

All of these steps have been documented on flu.gov—a website that’s become a one-stop clearinghouse for Americans to get latest news about the flu and how to keep their families healthy this fall.  

On the site you will find the flu essentials, important hand outs and lists that will help you recognize early warning signs of serious illness and let you know what to do if a loved gets sick.

If you go to flu.gov now, you’ll see a map of the U.S. where, with a click, you can find out how H1N1 vaccine distribution will happen in your state and where to call or go to get more information.

Just a word of warning, as we slowly build up our supply of vaccine in the system, there may not be that many locations offering it right now, but more and more will come on line in the coming days, so please keep checking.

For the health providers here today, help us get the word out, but also get vaccinated.  The federal government doesn’t require you to get a flu shot, but we believe that it is so important that you get one, especially to protect the people you care for.

If you or a loved one is pregnant or has an underlying condition like asthma or diabetes or a neuromuscular disease, please get vaccinated as soon as you can. You are at risk of getting very sick should you get the flu.

If you are waiting to get the vaccine and aren’t in one of the first groups in line, don’t forget to practice good flu prevention behavior. Wash your hands, cover your sneezes and coughs with a tissue or cough into your sleeve, and stay home if you are sick.

In closing, I’ll just mention an article in the September 27 issue of USA Today, about a Kansas City family—the Moises -2 parents, 3 kids—who jumped at the chance to participate in a clinical trial.    We all benefit from knowing their story.

In 2003, the baby of the family, an otherwise healthy 6-month old, died from seasonal flu just 30 hours after symptoms set in.

Doctors had told the parents, “Don’t worry, it’s just the flu.”

His parents and siblings are honoring his memory by taking part in the clinical trials for the H1N1 vaccine and telling their story so that millions of families across the country will understand just how dangerous flu can be and just how important and easy it is to get protected against by getting vaccinated.

It can’t replace the pain they feel for their loss but what they are helping their neighbors, their friends and people across the country avoid the tragedy they experienced.

It is this kind of shared responsibility – this kind of neighbor helping neighbor message which will be our most potent weapon in this fight against the flu.

We need every American to do their part.

There are plenty of issues which divide us in Washington right now but the flu is not one of them.

Members of Congress like Representative Clay are working together with their colleagues from both the Democratic and Republican party to help keep Americans safe from the flu.

We appreciate their support. And we appreciate the support of places like Saint Louis University and the Doisy Research Center.  On behalf of the Obama Administration and the Department, we are very, very grateful for the work that you do.

Rep. Clay, I will turn the floor back to you.