Pregnant women, health care workers and children six months and older should be placed at the front of the line for swine flu vaccinations this fall, a government panel recommended Wednesday.
The panel also said those first vaccinated should include parents and other caregivers of infants; non-elderly adults who have high-risk medical conditions; and young adults ages 19 to 24.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to set vaccination priorities for those groups Wednesday during a meeting in Atlanta. The panel's recommendations are usually adopted by federal health officials.
The recommendations are designed to address potential limits in vaccine availability this fall if there is heavy demand and limited supplies.
The government estimates that about 120 million swine flu vaccine doses will be available to the public by late October. Roughly 150 million people are in the priority groups considered most vulnerable to infection or most at risk for severe disease.
Although the number recommended to get doses exceeds the projected supply, health officials don't think everyone will run out and get vaccinated. Traditionally, less than half of the people recommended to get seasonal flu shots get them. Only about 15 percent of pregnant women get seasonal flu vaccinations.
If there is ample vaccine, vaccinations also would be recommended for all non-elderly adults, the panel also voted. And if there's still plenty of vaccine, the swine flu shots and spray doses should be offered to people 65 and older. Fewer illnesses have been reported in the elderly, who appear to have higher levels of immunity to the virus, health experts say.
However, the elderly should be pushed to get shots against seasonal flu, which is a significant health risk to older adults.
Panel members say they hope swine flu vaccinations will be opened up quickly. "The only sin is vaccine left in the refrigerator," said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University flu expert, in a com