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Maker recalls flu vaccine

SACRAMENTO — Despite assurances to the contrary, Camille Pasley had strong doubts Tuesday about whether her 16-month-old grandson was protected against the H1N1 virus — after the maker of a vaccine for young children announced a recall of the anti-flu drug.

"I have no idea what can be done," said Pasley, 65. "How would we even know if he got the recalled shot?"

Sacramento County health officials could not provide an answer for Pasley and others.

State officials said 159 health care providers in California received nearly 50,000 doses of the shots made by the French firm Sanofi Pasteur. Tuesday, the company recalled 800,000 doses meant for children 6 months to 3 years.

As of Dec. 5, California health officials reported more than 7,540 people hospitalized because of the virus, with at least 397 deaths.

Sanofi Pasteur said some doses still on refrigerator shelves have lost potency. It directed doctors, clinics and other health providers not to use those doses.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assured parents that the shots already administered were safe and should effectively protect children.

But health officials reminded parents that children younger than 10 need to be vaccinated twice, a month apart, to get the best protection against swine flu.

A Sanofi Pasteur representative could not explain why the shots lost some potency, as much as 12 percent, according to company tests.

Nearly 50,000 pediatric doses arriving in California — and targeted in the recall — account for about 9 percent of the state's number of prefilled syringes intended for young children, officials said.

For children ages 6 months to 35 months, one vaccine dose results in adequate immune system response only 25 percent of the time, said Dr. Dean Blumberg, associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California at Davis. Having the two recommended doses brings about a robust immune system 90 percent of the time, he added.

"I would interpret this as there being an abundance of caution, and nothing related to safety," Blumberg said.