HEALTH

HHS, Ad Council launch television PSAs for H1N1

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Thursday announced that the Department of Health and Human Services has joined with the Ad Council to launch a series of national television public service advertisements designed to encourage Americans to take steps to protect themselves from the 2009 H1N1 flu virus.

The ads are designed specifically to reach children, parents, pregnant women and young adults. A second series of PSAs, aimed at encouraging high-risk populations to get the H1N1 vaccination, is launching in late October.

Included in the PSAs being released Thursday were new spots featuring characters from “Sesame Street” and the winning spots from the recent 2009 Flu Prevention PSA Contest sponsored by HHS. The Ad Council distributed the PSAs nationwide and the ads will be supported in airtime donated by television stations nationwide. The spots also will be available at Flu.gov, the government’s one-stop Web site for all the latest information on both seasonal and H1N1 flu.

The PSAs include:

  • Targeting young adults — the winning PSA video from HHS’ national 2009 Flu Prevention PSA Contest on YouTube featuring the “hip hop doc,” along with four additional videos from the contest, will aim to reach those ages 17 to 24. More than 50,000 votes were cast for the contest. The PSAs are available in 30-second and 60-second lengths, and include a Spanish-language spot;
  • Targeting parents and pregnant women — produced by HHS, a new series of TV ads featuring Olympic Gold Medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee, singer Marc Anthony and actress Amy Ryan, aim to reach parents and pregnant women. The PSA featuring Marc Anthony also is available in Spanish, and the ads are in 30-second length; and
  • Targeting parents and children — designed to reach children under the age of 5 and their parents, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind “Sesame Street,” produced two new television PSAs. “Sesame Street’s” Elmo and Rosita have a new song teaching children the proper way to sneeze, while Elmo and Luis talk to parents about the importance of creating a plan to keep their children home from school if they get sick. These messages build on a PSA Sesame Workshop released with HHS and the Ad Council earlier this year, which explained the importance of practicing healthy habits this flu season. The PSAs are available in English and Spanish and are in 30-second lengths.

“While getting a flu vaccine is the best way for Americans to protect themselves and their families from the flu, as we wait for the H1N1 vaccine to get distributed out into local doctors’ offices and sites across the country, there are critically important things that Americans can be doing right now to keep their friends and family healthy and safe and to prevent the spread of flu,” Sebelius said. “These new prevention PSAs will help us get the word out about what to do about the flu. Fighting the flu is a shared responsibility between all of us, and we are so grateful to all those who helped create these wonderful new messages. We are hopeful that Americans will spread these new PSAs virally and use to them to help stop the spread of H1N1 and seasonal flu,” she said.

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CDC refutes reports that influenza vaccine poses risk of developing H1N1

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday played down recent media reports describing unpublished findings from seasonal influenza vaccine studies conducted in Canada.

The findings from these studies suggest that receiving the 2008-09 seasonal influenza vaccine (which is the vaccine offered last influenza season) was a risk factor for developing influenza caused by the 2009 H1N1 virus. In the studies done in Canada, the increase in risk among persons vaccinated with a seasonal influenza vaccine was approximately double the risk for those who were not vaccinated with seasonal influenza vaccine.

“However, the research findings from Canada have not been published in the medical literature or presented at any public scientific meetings. There has not yet been an opportunity to fully review the studies in detail,” CDC stated.

“Preliminary results of studies conducted in the United States using methods similar to the Canadian studies did not indicate that receiving a seasonal influenza vaccine increased the risk of developing influenza caused by the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus,” the agency added. “No other country has reported that seasonal influenza vaccine increases the risk of developing influenza caused by the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus.”

One one study has been published on this issue — an Australian study that did not find any association between receipt of seasonal influenza vaccine and risk of developing influenza caused by the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus.

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Florastor products to be sold at CVS/pharmacy

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN BRUNO, Calif. As part of its continued expansion throughout the U.S. retail market, Biocodex, the U.S. distributor of Florastor and Florastor Kids, has secured distribution through CVS/pharmacy beginning this month, the company announced. Florastor will be placed on-shelf in the stomach/digestives aisle, while Florastor Kids will be available upon request behind the counter.

According to Dan Harper, director of sales for Biocodex, the stomach/digestives aisle is the most appropriate spot for this product – in the company of popular anti-diarrheal remedies.

“While Florastor is technically a dietary supplement, it is used successfully by many to manage digestive ailments and diarrhea, so it makes sense for it to be available in the section where the consumer will be looking for those types of items,” Harper said.

“When Florastor was first introduced to Americans, the idea of probiotics was not well understood by mainstream consumers or even traditional medical practitioners,” stated Marc Rohman, U.S. VP and GM of Biocodex. “However, as Americans are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of probiotics, particularly yeast-based probiotics such as Florastor, expanding distribution into the chain stores was the next logical step to meet the demand we’re seeing.”

According to Rohman, sales of Florastor have grown annually, even without widespread on-shelf availability, as a result of increased pharmacist and consumer awareness of the probiotic category, word-of-mouth and physician recommendations.

The latest chain shelf space acquisitions are the result of Biocodex’s work with Morgan & Sampson USA, with which Biocodex teamed to help manage its growth and distribution within the U.S. retail trade.

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