Health Officials Face H1N1 Vaccine Shortages

October 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Health officials across the country continue to face shortages with the H1N1 swine flu vaccine. Now many are worried that things will only get worse when the flu season peaks this winter. Some health officials are now planning for possible health care rationing in case the flu gets out of control.Joseph Claud and his sister were both vaccinated against the H1N1 virus. It was a difficult decision for their mother.

"I think that information seems to be changing all the time, so it's hard to know what to believe. But we're just going with general recommendations about getting the vaccine," said Anne Claud.

Getting the vaccine, however, depends on where you are.

While some North Carolina schools have been able to inoculate most of their students through the nasal mist form of the vaccine, clinics in other parts of the state are completely out of both forms .

Monday, Georgia officials announced they'll get half the supply of the H1N1 vaccine they were originally promised.

"Unfortunately we don't control the actual manufacturing of the actual vaccine or its distribution," said Dr. Rhonda Medows with the Georgia Health Department.

Some states, such as Florida, are attempting to control how it will care for patients in the event the flu epidemic overwhelms the healthcare system.

One proposal: to ration care, focusing on those patients with better chances of survival. While controversial, some experts say these conversations should take place now while there's time to debate.

"The discussions now, with doctors and with the general public, to weigh in on these. These aren't medical decisions. They're societal, ethical decisions. This is the time to have those discussions," said ABC News Medical Correspondent Dr. Richard Besser.

The Center for Disease Control is now asking health practitioners not to wait for test results in patients believed to have the H1N1 virus. They recommend treatment begin as soon as symptoms surface.



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