Get Vaccinated Against Swine Flu

From American Medical Assocation Member Communications 1/8/2010

CNN (1/8, Young) reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continued to stress the importance of seeking H1N1 vaccinations on Thursday, noting that the virus “is still circulating and causing illness, hospitalization and death.” Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, said there was a “very good” vaccine supply around the country, but that complacency regarding the virus is “probably our top enemy right now.” Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “visited Carlin Springs Elementary School in Arlington County, Virginia, Thursday,” where “more than 200 students lined up to receive a second round of the vaccine.”

The New York Times (1/8, McNeil Jr.) reports, “The disease centers’ ‘best guess’ is that 60 million people have been vaccinated. There are now 136 million doses available from many sources, including city clinics, schools, private doctors and pharmacy chains.”Reuters (1/8) reports that Dr. Anne Schuchat said the CDC remained undecided about whether the lack of demand would spur the country to cancel any remaining orders. CQ HealthBeat (1/8, Kim) reports Dr. Schuchat said “that there has been a recent increase in flu-like illnesses reported in doctors offices and emergency rooms,” although she said the increase could be “due to fewer people seeking medical attention during the holidays.” She also noted that the seasonal strain of the flu “has not yet emerged.”

Shortage fears give way to overabundance of vaccine. The Albany Times Union (1/8, Karlin) reports that in Albany, “just months after the state launched an all-out effort to vaccinate people against the H1N1 virus amid initial fears of a shortage of shots, county health departments and doctors are awash in unused doses — with some sending them back to the state for cold storage.” Health Department spokeswoman Claire Pospisil said the state “sent out two trucks” of unused vaccine, including “7,000 doses of the FluMist nasal inhaled vaccine from Nassau County.” However, “others wondered if the returns are the result of an overreaction by the state as well as local healthcare providers to initial fears of a shortage.”

The Los Angeles Times (1/8, Lin, Hennessy-fiske) reports that California has received “about two-thirds” of the H1N1 vaccine supply that they expect, with over 15 million doses already reaching the state. State health officer Dr. Mark Horton confirmed on Thursday that “virtually all communities in California now have an abundance of H1N1 vaccine,” even though “fewer than half of California’s local public health departments are reporting active H1N1 flu outbreaks.”

Minorities found to be particularly vulnerable to swine flu. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1/8, Johnson) reports, “Minorities in Milwaukee and the rest of Wisconsin were two to three times as likely as whites to be hospitalized for swine flu.” Health officials were unsure of the reasons behind the disparity, but pointed out that “minority populations have higher rates for some of the underlying medical conditions that can make swine flu more severe: diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.” Milwaukee Health Commissioner Bevan K. Baker called the difference “troubling,” while state and local health leaders indicated that they would be making “extra efforts” to reach minority populations with vaccine clinics.

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