Fairfax cancels two swine flu vaccine distributions

By Derek Kravitz
Tuesday, October 20, 2009; 1:01 PM

Fairfax County has canceled two mass swine flu vaccine distributions after the Washington region's most populous locality was told it would receive only a fraction of the vaccine doses it had expected.

Officials had originally planned on administering 50,000 H1N1 flu vaccine shots to schoolchildren next weekend at 10 public middle schools. Instead, a smaller, targeted distribution for infants and pregnant women has been scheduled for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Fairfax County Government Center. Children ages 6 months to 36 months and pregnant women are eligible.

Health officials had been expecting about 120,000 vaccine shots by the end of the month but now anticipate only about 10,000 vaccine doses will be delivered. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that the flu vaccine shots were taking longer to produce and that only 28 million to 30 million doses, instead of the planned 40 million doses, would be delivered to local and regional health departments by the end of October.

"Certainly the ideal would have been to have enough vaccine to be available for everyone," said Gloria Addo-Ayensu, Fairfax County's health director. "We won't have as many as anticipated but we do know who our highest target priority groups are and that's who we are focusing on. Certainly not everyone who should come down with H1N1 will be severely ill."

Vaccine is still being produced and is expected to be available in the coming weeks, Addo-Ayensu said.

But the vaccine shortage comes at a time when the spread of the H1N1 flu virus to children and teenagers has been especially acute. Earlier this month, health officials announced that 19 children nationwide had died from flu strain in a single week. Most of those children had health problems that made them vulnerable but roughly 20 to 30 percent of those who have died from the virus this flu season were otherwise healthy, officials said. As of Oct. 14, about 265,000 H1N flu vaccine doses have been shipped to Virginia.

Depending on the quantities of vaccine available each week, doses might still be made available to potentially vulnerable groups at Fairfax health department offices. Officials have promised to keep residents aware of vaccine availability through the county's flu Web site and on its Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Fred Ellis, director of the Office of Safety and Security for the Fairfax County public schools, urged parents to be patient and said teachers at county schools have been instructing children to wash their hands and cover their nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing.

Consent forms and vaccine information is available on Fairfax County's Web site.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company