Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization Holds Special Meeting to Discuss H1N1 Vaccine Recommendations

On 7 July 2009, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization held an extraordinary meeting in Geneva to discuss issues and make recommendations related to vaccine for the pandemic (H1N1) 2009.

SAGE reviewed the current pandemic situation, the current status of seasonal vaccine production and potential A(H1N1) vaccine production capacity, and considered potential options for vaccine use.

The experts identified three different objectives that countries could adopt as part of their pandemic vaccination strategy:

* protect the integrity of the health-care system and the country's critical infrastructure;
* reduce morbidity and mortality; and
* reduce transmission of the pandemic virus within communities.

SAGE held a special meeting on 7 July to discuss the evolving pandemic and vaccine development. A summary of its recommendations, endorsed by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan on 11 July, was released in a statement today and discussed during a press briefing (audio file) by Marie-Paule Kieny, head of WHO's Initiative for Vaccine Research.

Protecting doctors, nurses, and other medical staff is the key to keep healthcare systems running, SAGE concluded. If countries have enough vaccine, they can reduce disease and death by vaccinating groups at higher risk, such as pregnant women, those with chronic health conditions, or even all healthy young adults between 15 and 49 years old, the age group that appears most vulnerable. They can also choose to try to slow the transmission of the virus, in which case vaccinating healthy children is an option, Kieny says, because they are an "amplifier of transmission."