SLU's Doisy Research Center tests H1N1 vaccine

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 8:39 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, September 15, 2009

*CORRECTION: The phone number for volunteers to call is 314-977-6333. The previous phone number listed was incorrect.

ST. LOUIS — It was an easy decision for Mike Castling, 68, of Wentzville to volunteer to be a test subject for the H1N1 flu vaccine.

Castling said his great-grandmother died of the flu decades ago, and that sparked his willingness to volunteer.

“I’m relaxed with the whole thing,” Castling said.

Castling was at Saint Louis University's Edward A. Doisy Research Center on Monday morning to get his shot. The center was bustling as the media were given an inside look at the facility and how it's playing a role in the development of an H1N1 vaccine.

Hand-sanitizing dispensers dotted the wall every few feet. Some rooms were off-limits and could only be seen through large glass windows. Color-coded tubs with packaged syringes filled a room while people in white lab coats carried beakers of blue liquid back and forth.

The Doisy Research Center is in its final stages of testing the H1N1 vaccine on three groups: adults 18 to 65 years of age; children under age 3 and pregnant women in their second and third trimesters.

So far the results are promising.

The vaccine is effective in 80 percent to 100 percent of adults ages 18 to 65, said Sharon Frey, clinical director of SLU's Center for Vaccine Development. Frey added that, so far, no unexpected side effects have been detected.

“We’re very, very pleased with those results,” Frey said. “We are seeing what we had hoped to see. The people we studied are safe.”

Recent studies at the university show that healthy adults may only need one H1N1 vaccine this fall as opposed to a two-shot process as previously reported. However, a regular, seasonal flu shot is still encouraged.

The vaccine is expected to be available by mid-October. There are priority groups for the initial shipments. According to Frey, those individuals at very high risk — children 6 months to 18 years of age, adults with chronic conditions and pregnant women —  will be the first to receive vaccinations.

Missouri is expected to receive 878,000 doses of the vaccine with the first shipments.

“Steady additional shipments of the vaccine should eventually allow us to provide shots to everyone who wants them,” Margaret Donnelly, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said in a news release Monday.

The university tests the vaccines on volunteers from the community and still needs more participants to finish the testing of the H1N1 vaccination.

For more information on volunteering, call *314-977-6333.

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