Sites in Washington area curbing swine flu vaccine clinics

By Michael Laris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Slower-than-expected production of the H1N1 flu vaccine is forcing some Washington area health officials to cancel or limit immunization clinics until more supplies arrive.

Maryland officials were expecting 900,000 to 1 million doses by the end of this month. Now that number is 530,000.

"Health departments everywhere are having to be flexible and fluid as the situation changes," said Maribeth Brewster, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Health.

In a sign of the widespread presence of H1N1 in the Washington area, Montgomery County health officer Ulder J. Tillman told county officials Tuesday that 1,900 young people had been sent home from Montgomery public schools since August for flu-like illnesses. She and other health officials said current flu cases are overwhelmingly H1N1, not the seasonal virus.

Officials said that their plans are contingent on the supplies of vaccine they receive and that some clinics will not cover all priority groups targeted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The officials recommended calling to check availability before getting in line.

Among the changes:

Prince William County health officials canceled a clinic planned for Wednesday at the Manassas Mall and said they didn't know whether it will open Friday as scheduled. Plans to open a clinic at the Hillendale firehouse have been canceled for now.

Montgomery officials said a clinic Wednesday in Rockville will primarily use the H1N1 nasal vaccine, not the shots, which can cover more people. Pregnant women, children 6 months to 2 years old, and adults 50 to 64 and children with chronic conditions will have access to a limited supply of swine flu shots, spokeswoman Mary Anderson said.

In Fairfax County, planned mass vaccination clinics at 10 public schools this weekend have been canceled. Officials are replacing them with a single, more limited clinic at the county government center Saturday. The clinic will target children 6 months to 3 years old and pregnant women.

Fairfax officials had planned to administer 50,000 swine flu shots this weekend. They had put in orders for 120,000 shots by the end of the month but have 10,000 to 12,000 doses in hand. They said that they hope that will be enough for the clinic Saturday and that any remaining or new supplies will be distributed at district health offices.

"It's just trickling in," said Glen Barbour, a spokesman for the Fairfax Health Department, who said people should check with the county about availability. "If you want the vaccine, you just have to be vigilant in this time when it's not readily available," he said.

Officials in the District said their schedule of clinics for pregnant women and people 6 months to 24 years old had not changed. About 100 people were in line Tuesday afternoon shortly after a clinic at Cardozo Senior High School opened. "Everything is moving smoothly so far," said D.C. health department spokesman Dena Iverson.

The priority groups set by the CDC are: pregnant women, people who live with or take care of children younger than 6 months, health-care and emergency workers, people 6 months to 24 years old, and people 25 to 64 who have chronic health conditions.

Officials said the general population will have access at a later time.

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