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Calif. sees major H1N1 vaccine shortage

November 12, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A new government report shows just how dangerous the Swine Flu really is. Twenty-two-million Americans have gotten sick from the Swine Flu since April, and 4,000 have died. And production of the Swine Flu vaccine is not meeting the demand.California state health officials have declared a state of emergency due to the delay in getting the vaccine.

The death toll is significantly up because the causes of death for many people were originally attributed to illnesses like pneumonia, but they were actually brought on by H1N1 influenza, so they're now being counted as H1N1 casualties.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expressed disappointment that so few vaccines were shipped this week: 3 million versus 11 million last week.

The CDC now estimates some 8 million children have come down with H1N1 influenza during the past six months, and as many as 800 have died. Those numbers are particularly troubling because the traditional flu season has just begun.

"I do believe that the pediatric death toll from this pandemic will be extensive and much greater than what we see in seasonal flu," said Anne Schuchat, M.D., Centers for Disease Control.

That makes vaccination all the more urgent. In California, shipments are still behind schedule because of production delays by manufacturers.

More than 6 million doses are supposed to be here by now, but only 4.5 million have shown up.

"As long as there continues to be less production that doesn't meet demand, there will continue to be unhappy, frustrated people and we are doing the best we can," said Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health.

Most of those unhappy and frustrated people stand in line for hours waiting for the vaccine, if they can get one -- just like a thousand folks did Thursday morning in Fresno.

Sometimes, there isn't enough. The big question is when will there be more?

"Frankly, we have stopped trying to predict or even estimate when that might happen," said Dr. Horton.

That unknown is particularly agonizing to many parents because a new report shows children younger than 10 need two doses, three weeks apart, to fully protect them.

But with vaccines hard to come by, many California kids are lucky to get even one.

Supplies might improve: Some manufacturers have decided to cut back production of seasonal flu vaccine in order to produce more of the H1N1 vaccine.


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