Rush on the H1N1 Flu Shot Expected

October 30, 2009 5:39:00 PM PDT
California has received more than 2.6 million doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine, but in the Central Valley, the doses have mostly been in the form of a nasal spray. Now, the first shots are arriving and there's a sense of urgency for a lot of people.There's a big shipment of the shots at the Fresno County Health Department and they'll start going out next week, especially to vulnerable patients, like pregnant women and very young children. But you won't find them at your doctor's office.

Two plain-looking boxes are about to cause a lot of excitement. Inside, are 11,500 doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine, including 8,500 of the injectable version. The boxes will get emptied quickly as county flu clinics open next week.

"11,000 doses we'll probably go through pretty fast," said David Luchini of the Fresno County Department of Health. "I mean, we anticipate we'll be very busy in the clinics. So, anticipate to wait a little bit."

Clinics start Monday and there's no guarantee the shots will last through the day and until the next clinic. Luchini says it's possible they'll run out during the first clinic in Firebaugh. "That's always a chance because as you know, once we run out of the vaccine, then we have to wait," he said.

For now, the county health department is the only place where you'll find the injectable version of the vaccine. The nasal spray has been available for a couple weeks and doctors' refrigerators are running low just as the flu is peaking.

"Monday, 30% of the patients I saw had symptoms that fit H1N1 influenza," said pediatrician Dr. Marty Martin.

Dr. Martin is eager to get his first shipment of the H1N1 flu shot because his youngest patients can't take the nasal spray. Neither can pregnant women.

But the state had the last word on who gets the limited number of available shots and for the most part, they're not giving them to private doctors yet, at the request of county health departments.

"The toughest decision is how to distribute it and unfortunately, we at the private institutions seem to be on the short end of that tough decision right now," said OB-GYN Dr. Ron Lichtenstein.

Fresno County Health Department officials say they expect the first boxes to arrive at private doctors within the next two weeks.

The health department isn't the first place in Fresno County to get the injectable vaccine. That was apparently Kaiser Permanente, which went through all their shots in a few days this week. They're also hoping to have more within a couple weeks.



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