U.S. Suffers H1N1 Vaccine Shortage

As production of the H1N1 flu vaccine is managed slower that it was expected Washington area health officials have decided to cancel or limit immunization clinics until more supplies arrive.

Maryland officials were expecting 900,000 to 1 million doses by the end of this month. Now that number is 530,000.

"Health departments everywhere are having to be flexible and fluid as the situation changes," said Maribeth Brewster, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Health.

In a sign of the widespread presence of H1N1 in the Washington area, Montgomery County health officer Ulder J. Tillman told county officials Tuesday that 1,900 young people had been sent home from Montgomery public schools since August for flu-like illnesses. She and other health officials said current flu cases are overwhelmingly H1N1, not the seasonal virus, The Washington Post reports.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, there is only one flu vaccine available right now, and it is for the regular, seasonal flu. The H1N1 flu vaccine is expected here at the end of the month and will be distributed through the same places where people get regular flu shots.

The CDC recommends that people get both shots.

Charles Chiu, a principle investigator at UC San Francisco whose lab studies emerging pathogens, including the 2009 H1N1 virus, said he understands that people might dislike getting shots, but he said it makes absolutely no sense to get the seasonal flu vaccine and not the swine flu vaccine.

Roughly 70 percent of seniors reported getting the flu shot in the last 12 months, according to a CDC study from early 2009. Over the same period, around 40 percent of adults under 65 got flu shots, Mission Local reports.

It was also reported, H1N1 vaccine shipments to Massachusetts are running three weeks behind schedule, forcing the state to direct local health departments to cancel vaccine clinics scheduled for next month.

At the same time, shortages of the vaccine against seasonal flu strains are also being reported, as unusually high demand is outpacing the supply. Communities from Scituate to Somerville and Cambridge said they were postponing vaccine clinics aimed at protecting the public against both types of the flu.

The problems seen in Massachusetts reflect a nationwide shortage, as production facilities - pressed to make two types of vaccine at once - have been unable to churn out adequate amounts of either one.

The state had been working with local health authorities to plan swine flu vaccination clinics next month, but was informed by the CDC late last week that production was lagging. On Friday, it alerted local health departments by e-mail that "public and school based clinics tentatively scheduled for November should be postponed indefinitely," Boston Globe reports.

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