There has been panic over the H1N1 (a.k.a. swine flu) vaccine shortage. Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical companies responsible for producing the vaccine have had various production problems. These corporations, including GlaxoSmithKline and AztraZeneca, have been working with the U.S. government to get the vaccine out as soon as possible. In addition, as Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius explained to the New York Times, the actual reproduction of the vaccine in eggs chicken eggs has grown slower than expected. While the goal is to get all Americans vaccinated, only 30 million doses of the vaccine will be available by the end of this month.
Still, the situation’s not as scary as it sounds–even though it’s Halloween! Supplies are steadily growing, and H1N1, while serious, is not yet a nationwide pandemic. There’s still time for the vaccine to roll out, which it has been doing. Moreover, it’s only a subset of the population that is at higher risk:
- Pregnant women
- Teenagers & young adults
- and those with existing health problems.
Those groups need the vaccine as soon as possible, and most clinics have been rationing the vaccine for the moment. High-priority populations are moved ahead of the line, and others will receive any leftover vaccines. Some regions are seeing higher demand than others–and live vaccines for the H1N1 virus eventually expire. The worst scenario is for the vaccine to be thrown away; therefore, it should be then be offered to lower-priority populations, e.g. senior citizens (unlike the seasonal flu, senior citizens aren’t at high risk for the swine flu). Remember also that you only need a single shot of the vaccine for it to be effective.
Does your health insurance plan cover the H1N1 vaccine? It most likely does, if your primary care physician has it. If he or she doesn’t have a supply on hand, there are free and low-cost clinics available from county and state governments, as well as pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS.
(Image: Ben Chau under CC 2.0)