COVID-19 Vaccine
The World Health Organization (WHO) is making plans for how a life-saving COVID-19 vaccine could be distributed around the globe.

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

There are concerns about countries “hoarding” stores of vaccines for their own citizens. The countries that have the most money on hand will have the ability to buy a larger portion of available vaccines for citizens. While global leaders have come together to pledge $2 billion towards the creation of a vaccine, there is currently no formal worldwide plan to successfully manage the future COVID-19 vaccine and its distribution.

The public-private partnership that lead to this $2 billion pledge, Gavi, focuses on increasing childhood vaccinations in underdeveloped countries. It has support from WHO, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates himself has promised $1.6 million towards Gavi, along with $100 million to help countries that will need aid to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

U.S. Involvement and WHO

The U.S. government has decided to stay out of the recent Gavi-organized funding pledge. The country has also pulled monetary support from WHO. In the past, the U.S. has been a large supporter of the creation of the HPV and pneumococcal vaccines, which has left many experts confused by the recent moves of the U.S. to disassociate itself from the larger global race towards a COVID-19 vaccine.

Beyond hoarding concerns, there are always issues surrounding legal and sharing agreements between countries, quality control, civil uprising and unrest and natural disasters when it comes to vaccine distribution.

A recent example of how the world dealt with vaccine distribution during a pandemic is the 2009-2010 H1N1 swine flu pandemic. With the money they had, wealthier countries purchased most of the vaccine available through early orders, leaving developing countries to scramble for leftover vaccine stores. Eyjafjallajökul’s eruption in Iceland in April of 2010 also created vaccine shipping delays. Many countries, such as the U.S., Australia and Canada would not let vaccine manufacturers ship vaccines outside of their countries without fulfilling their people’s needs first.

Going Forward

To create a successful global vaccination program requires the cooperation from all countries involved, not just a few. Many may die without the equitable sharing of vaccines as this pandemic will flourish in underdeveloped nations. It may be seen by the rest of the global community as selfish to not try and help other countries in their fight against the virus.

Even after a vaccine is created, different strains of COVID-19 could easily return to Australian, Canadian or American shores, wreaking havoc all over again. While there are efforts being made to prevent distribution issues with the future vaccine, without the help of the United States,—one of the wealthiest countries on Earth—it may be long before a COVID-19 vaccine is fairly distributed.

Tara Suter
Photo: Flickr

What is Swine FluWhat is swine flu? It is an H1N1 form of influenza that appeared in the U.S. in April 2009 and hasn’t gone away.  The respiratory infection continues to sweep across the globe and the U.S.


The swine flu earned its name because it first originated in pigs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), human infections can be caused by direct contact with contaminated animals, environments or, occasionally, other humans. 

In 2009, the WHO called the swine flu a pandemic, as it was spreading fast around the world. At the outset, there was no vaccine and few people had any level of immunity to the virus. 


The symptoms of the swine flu are similar to the regular flu and include a cough, fever, muscle or joint pain, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, headache, chills and fatigue. More severe symptoms include shortness of breath, prolonged fever and severe vomiting. In these cases, it is important to see a doctor.

Like the regular flu, swine flu can lead to or worsen serious problems including pneumonia, lung infections and other breathing problems. 


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states the H1N1 virus that caused the pandemic is no longer a pandemic-level threat. Swine flu is now a regular human flu virus that circulates seasonally.

Treatment for swine flu is similar to regular flu, and usually only requires symptom relief. However, it is recommended to get the seasonal flu vaccine each year, as it protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common in the following season.

To address this and stop the next pandemic, scientists are currently researching to understand what swine flu is and how to create a universal influenza vaccine.


In October 2017, Vanderbilt University Medical Center announced the Universal Influenza Vaccine Initiative. The university said researchers are “leading an international effort to develop a universal influenza vaccine that would protect everyone against all strains of the flu anywhere in the world” and will begin tests in early 2018.

The Human Vaccines Project, a public-private partnership, is funding the project.

With additional knowledge and research, people can learn what the virus is and raise awareness of how to prevent it.

– Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr

H1N1 Facts
The H1N1 virus, or “swine flu” as it’s commonly known, was a strain of influenza that became pandemic in 2009. In the subsequent years, the virus was one of the most prevalent concerns of the worldwide medical community. Though the virus has not been as prominent in recent years, it can still infect people and have drastic effects in some regions of the world.

Here are 10 facts about H1N1 influenza:

  1. H1N1 is commonly referred to as the “swine flu” due to its similarities with the flu virus that affects pigs in North America. Further study has shown that it is different than the other virus and carries two genes that normally occur in European and Asian pigs, birds and people.
  2. The virus spreads the same way as the regular seasonal flu virus. It is contagious and can be contracted through coughing, sneezing or even talking to someone carrying it. It can also be contracted through mouth or nose contact with something contaminated.
  3. The H1N1 influenza virus causes moderate to severe respiratory infections. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, cough, headache, chills and fatigue. Severe cases include bacterial pneumonia bronchitis, sinus infections and an increase in underlying conditions.
  4. H1N1 is most severe in infants, young children, the elderly and individuals with pre-existing chronic diseases. Mortality rates in people less than 65 are significantly higher than those associated with the common flu.
  5. People infected with H1N1 become contagious generally one day before showing symptoms and can continue to spread the virus for five to seven days after. Those with weaker immune systems, such as children, are generally contagious for longer.
  6. H1N1 can also affect various farm animals, including pigs and turkeys. Domestic animals such as dogs, cats and ferrets are also susceptible to the virus due to close contact with humans.
  7. It is estimated that more than half of the deaths caused by the H1N1 were in the Southeast Asian and African regions. This could be due in part to the quality of healthcare and limited availability of vaccines and medications.
  8. An estimated 105,700-395,600 people died due to respiratory complications attributed to H1N1 influenza during the first 12 months of the virus’s outbreak. This constitutes 0.001-0.007 percent of the world’s population.
  9. The virus was given pandemic status in 2009 after the disease spread rapidly throughout the U.S. and Mexico. It was announced to be in post-pandemic stages August 10, 2010. More than 200 regions across the globe have been affected by the virus.
  10. There have been more recent outbreaks of the disease. In 2015, India reportedly had over 31,000 people infected and 1,900 resulting deaths. There was a small outbreak in the Maldives in early 2017 with 185 reportedly having tested positive for the virus.

Vaccination is still the best protection against H1N1 influenza. Other measures can be taken, including hand washing, avoiding people showing symptoms and avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth. It is also suggested to get vaccinated against the disease if traveling to an area where contracting H1N1 is a possibility.

Drew Hazzard

Photo: Flickr

There are many different strains of flu and each year the flu shot is redeveloped to guard the population against the strains that are most likely to spread during the upcoming flu season. One of these strains is H1N1 or Swine flu, which caused a pandemic in 2009.The flu is typically more common in the fall and winter months and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the flu is most common during December through February. The best method for preventing the virus is the flu shot, although it is not designed to combat each individual strain of the flu.

10 Facts about H1N1

  1. The H1N1 virus was first isolated from a pig in 1930, according to a report from CNN.
  2. The CDC estimates that 151,700 to 575,900 people were killed by H1N1 during the pandemic in 2009.
  3. More than half of H1N1 related deaths in 2009 occurred in Africa and Southeastern Asia.
  4. The CDC also says that people under the age of 65 were more greatly affected by H1N1 than they had been by other strains of the flu virus.
  5. In 1976, 13 soldiers in Fort Dix, New Jersey became infected with Swine flu, resulting in one fatality.
  6. It is unlikely for H1N1 to be passed from person to person, according to the Mayo Clinic.
  7. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, most people who contract the virus will be able to fight it off on their own.
  8. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) studied the impact that H1N1 would have on the country after the initial 2009 outbreak, estimating that it would have no more of an effect than other strains.
  9. The NIH studied the impact of H1N1 vaccinations among children and reported that efficient vaccination prevented the virus from being spread to 100 million more individuals.
  10. The H1N1 virus is constantly changing since pigs can contract viruses from birds and humans.

These 10 facts about H1N1 provide the public with insight into what the virus is, how it works, and how it is able to spread. These 10 facts about H1N1 also provide important information about the work that scientists are doing to learn more about it and prevent outbreaks.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr