Hamburg offers chicken/egg solution

Despite distribution and manufacturing delays, the H1N1 vaccine situation could have been a lot worse. An important step in pandemic preparedness has averted what would surely have been a supply strangler just a few years ago--egg availability.

Instead, government contracts were let for additional flocks of chickens to produce a reserve supply of eggs, explains FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg in a letter to healthcare providers.

"A critical part of influenza vaccine production is growth of the vaccine strain in specially produced eggs.  After inoculation of the eggs, the virus replicates, creating hundreds of thousands of copies of itself.  It is the efficiency of this growth that determines how much vaccine can be produced and how quickly," Hamburg writes in the letter. 

The commissioner provides an engaging and comprehensible description of the vaccine manufacturing process to aid healthcare workers in explanations to a public concerned about the safety of the H1N1 vaccine and about its lagging availability. In a nice bit of PR, she acknowledges the difficulties that the delays and misunderstandings of the process have created for doctors and their staffs, and thanks them for rising to the occasion.

- here's the letter