Swine flu vaccine shortage disrupts local response plans By Andre Damon
30 October 2009

People lined up at treatment centers throughout the country this week to
receive swine flu immunizations. Amid a shortage of flu vaccine, regional
plans had to be scrapped and local responses quickly constructed, according
to treatment supervisors.

Hundreds of people lined up at Macomb County’s first flu clinic at a park in
Sterling Heights, Michigan, on October 28, gridlocking traffic and prompting
the dispatch of nearly a dozen police officers.

Michael Parent, the Macomb County Health Department’s director of family
health services said that the shortage of vaccine was causing severe

“We planned far in advance in order to be adequately prepared, but didn’t
get what we had anticipated in terms of supplies,” he told the WSWS. “We
collaborated with the school system to set up multiple distribution sites,
but had to cancel those when the vaccines weren’t delivered. We’re using
what we have and are trying to get vaccines out to private physicians in the
area, to cover as many people as possible.”

Parent noted that that the large turnout at distribution events was related
to the large number of people without insurance or regular family doctors.
“There are limitations of care. That’s why we have these distributions, for
those without a ‘medical home,’ so to speak.”

He stressed the national character of the problem, saying, “Counties and
agencies around the country have had the experience of not having vaccines
delivered as they expected.”

 Less than half of the doses that were to be made available this month are
ready. As of last week, 13 million doses were delivered to doctors, far
fewer than the 28 to 30 million doses that were supposed to be ready by the
end of the month. “We are nowhere near where we thought we’d be by now,”
said CDC Director Thomas Frieden last week.

 On Monday, Detroit residents lined up at a public health clinic, with a
line forming hours before the clinic was set to open. “We’ve been waiting
for two hours to get everybody vaccinated,” said Daniel Sterling, who came
with his family. “The kids had to miss school, and we had to take off work.”

Michael McElrath, publicist for the Detroit Department of Public Health,
said the city received 9,000 doses of the H1N1 vaccine. “We have dispensed
doses to 500 residents so far,” stated McElrath. “Primarily we are targeting
pregnant women, children younger than 6 and children with underlying

He said that there are not enough doses for everyone who would benefit to
get vaccinated. “We don’t want to turn people away, but because of the
limited supply we have to target the most vulnerable people,” he said.

In areas where limited amounts of vaccine were made available, adults who
were neither pregnant, health workers, nor lived with children were turned
away. Large numbers of people afraid that they would not get access to the
vaccine lined up hours before clinics were scheduled to open throughout the

Priorities for vaccination vary from county to county. “There’s a lot of
confusion and inconsistencies with each local health department deciding who
gets what,” Dr. Tom Petroff, H1N1 coordinator for the McLaren Health System,
told the *Detroit Free Press*.

There are multiple forms of the vaccine, with an “activated,” nasal spray
version available for healthy adults and an injectable, inactivated version
for pregnant women, infants, and people with severe health problems. Health
workers at the Sterling Heights clinic distributed the intranasal version,
while the Detroit clinic gave the injectable version.

Some states and regions have begun in-school vaccinations for children,
while others, including Macomb County, have had to scrap these plans and set
up ad-hoc clinics. The rules for receiving vaccination are also far from
uniform, with certain states focusing on healthcare workers while others
prioritize vaccinating children.

Washtenaw County in Southeast Michigan, meanwhile, had to cancel its planned
vaccination clinics at local schools after hundreds of people lined up at
the first event. The county announced last week that it received just 30
percent of the vaccine it had expected to get, and that it would
subsequently tighten the criteria for getting vaccinated.

The CDC said Friday that as many as 5.7 million people were infected with
swine flu earlier in the year, revising earlier estimates sharply upwards.
The organization said, during the first four months of the pandemic, 107
people per 100,000 aged 65 and older were infected. For people aged 5 to 24
years, that figure shoots up drastically, to 2,196 per 100,000.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said Friday that doctors visits for
flu symptoms have increased in recent weeks. “We were getting about 70
patients a day. Now it’s closer to 100,” said Olga, a physician assistant at
a Delaware walk-in clinic.

“People are really panicked. They get sick, go the hospital, and have to
wait for hours in the emergency room because everyone else is doing the same
thing, and the staff is overwhelmed.”

“There hasn’t been any sort of systematic response, and people are scared,”
she said. “Why can’t somebody just coordinate this?”