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H1N1 vaccine shortage threatens goal

November 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Shortages of H1N1 flu vaccine across the country threaten to make California miss its goal of inoculating all high risk groups by the end of the year. That includes healthcare workers, children, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses. Production has been slower than expected, causing significant delays in shipments to states.

"The CDC expected to provide about 6.25 million doses to Californians by now. We've only been allocated half of that amount," said Dr. Gil Chavez, a state epidemiologist for California.

At least a couple of dozen public health agencies received significantly less than the amount of vaccines they ordered. The statewide average is just 45 percent.

In the Southland, Orange County received only 39 percent. Riverside and San Bernardino counties fared worse, getting 36 percent of their orders.

The state says those areas will be given a priority as more vaccines arrive in California. Another half-million doses were ordered on Wednesday. The goal is to eventually give each public health agency the same number of vaccines in proportion to their population.

"Over the next week or so, we now have a process in place by which new vaccine is being allocated to those who received less vaccine in the past," said Dr. Chavez. "So by about two weeks, we will have parity."

Until production catches up to demand, some local health workers are struggling with the onslaught of people waiting in line for hours to get the vaccine. Only 2.5 million doses have been received statewide. The state expects to order 20 million for the entire flu season.

While anxious Californians wait, the virus continues to affect the young disproportionately.

"In the last week alone, the greatest increase in the number of outbreaks throughout California came from school outbreaks," said Dr. Chavez.

Given the shortages, New York City health officials are scrambling to explain their actions. There are reports Wall Street workers were able to jump ahead of the line in front of children and pregnant women.


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