Vaccinating 40 percent of the people in October or 35 percent in November saves lives, cuts medical costs and shortens the pandemic, compared with later vaccination, according to the study appearing in the Oct. issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.
In terms of stemming the H1N1 virus pandemic, early vaccination will save more lives and costs less, a new study suggests.
For the study, researchers at Stanford University Medical Center (SUMC) constructed a computer model of a hypothetical city like New York, which has 8.3 million residents.
The study found that vaccinating just 40 percent of the population in October would save 2,051 lives and 469 million dollars, while vaccinating that number in November would prevent 1,468 people from dying and save 302 million dollars, compared with no vaccinations.
"Earlier -- October versus November -- vaccination saves more lives and costs less," said the study's lead researcher, Dr. Nayer Khazeni, from the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at SUMC.
"We find that vaccinating 40 percent of the population in October would decrease viral transmission and shorten the pandemic," she said.
The H1N1 vaccine has not shown any severe side effects, but there searchers used a conservative model with side effects similar tot hose in the 1976 swine flu vaccination campaign as well as a more severe scenario, said Khazeni.
"In both those scenarios, vaccination would still save more lives than cause side-effect related deaths," she said.
Distribution of an injectable H1N1 vaccine started on a small scale this week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
U.S. health officials have said they expect 45 million doses of injectable vaccine to be ready by late October. Supplies will increase weekly, with 190 million doses by year's end.
There is no way to know if enough people will get their shots in time to maximize the life-saving and cost-saving benefits, researchers say.
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