Emergency Rules Cut Red Tape in H1N1 Fight

A health official administers an H1N1 flu shot in a school gymnasium. President Obama's declaration of a state of emergency due to the flu epidemic makes it easier for hospitals to set up special H1N1 clinics in schools, community centers and tents.
CBS
Health officials battling the H1N1 flu virus this weekend have received two booster shots of their own. President Obama has declared the virus a national emergency, cutting bureaucratic red tape. And the FDA has approved the use of the experimental anti-viral drug Peramivir.

With the outbreak now touching 46 states, the new help comes not a moment too soon, as CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports.

With the H1N1 flu virus spreading farther and faster than expected, the emergency declaration from the White House means health care providers can respond to the crisis faster and bypass some federal regulations.

Special Report: H1N1 Virus

"This is a proactive move to basically get rid of the red tape so that hospitals don't have to fight with regulators if the H1N1 epidemic gets bad later on," said Dr. Martin Makary of Johns Hopkins University Hospital.

The emergency declaration allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to waive federal rules for hospitals, permitting them to set up alternate treatment sites for H1N1 patients such as schools, community centers, or even tents. They can also establish special treatment sites within the hospital, which is Hopkins is doing.

"We've set up a second section of the hospital that is actually sort of a lounge so that patients can go there directly and not have to mix with all the other patients in the emergency room," Makary said. "It's a way to sort of protect them and also protect the other patients."

Meanwhile, in cities like Des Moines, Iowa, the demand for the H1N1 vaccine continues to outstrip supply.

Nationwide, only 11 million doses have been distributed, not the 120 million federal health officials had expected to have by now.

The virus seems to target young people; 100 children have died so far this year.

60 Minutes: H1N1 Most Dangerous to Young People

Originally, the Centers for Disease Control had recommended the vaccine for everyone under 25.

But, because of the shortage, the vaccine is only being given to high-risk groups such as health care workers, pregnant women, children 6 months to 4 years of age, and infant care givers.

The government hopes to have 50 million doses of H1N1 vaccine by mid-November.

The other crucial development: the government has approved the emergency use of the intravenous drug Peramivir, which is still in late-stage clinical trials, but has proven effective in saving the lives of people near death from the H1N1 virus. CBS News first reported on the push to lift FDA restrictions or Peramivir last week.

That report was discussed in Congress - contributing to the eventual policy change.

Related information:
CDC: Learn More About H1N1
CDC: What To Do If You Get Sick
Flu.gov: Where To Get Your Flu Shots