President Barack Obama declared the swine flu outbreak a national emergency on Friday October 23, empowering the health secretary to suspend federal requirements and speed up treatment.
His declaration authorizes Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to bypass normal federal regulations so health officials can respond more quickly to the outbreak, which, allegedly, has killed more than 1,000 people in the United States.
"As a nation, we have prepared at all levels of government, and as individuals and communities, taking unprecedented steps to counter the emerging pandemic," Obama wrote in the declaration, which the White House announced Saturday.
He said the pandemic keeps evolving, the rates of illness are rising rapidly in many areas and there's a potential "to overburden health care resources."
Because of vaccine production delays, the government has backed off initial estimates that 120 million doses would be available by mid-October. As of mid-October, only 11 million doses had been shipped to health departments, doctor's offices and other providers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.
The government now estimates to have about 50 million doses of swine flu vaccine out by mid-November and 150 million in December.