D.C. area access to swine flu vaccine broadened

By Michael Laris
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

District officials on Tuesday loosened limits on who can get swine flu vaccinations and said the vaccine could be headed to pharmacies in the city as early as next week.

Fairfax County also slightly eased restrictions on who can be vaccinated at walk-in clinics.

Officials in Maryland, Virginia and the District said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is allowing them to put in orders this week for significant quantities of additional vaccine, their first chance in days to obtain federal allocations. Maryland officials on Monday, for instance, requested 69,300 doses, their biggest order yet, and Tuesday they were allowed to seek 66,800 more, bringing the state's total to 420,000 doses.

But officials emphasized that those numbers are still quite low compared with the large demand.

As of Tuesday, caregivers for children younger than 6 months and adults 25 to 64 with underlying conditions had been added to the groups that can be immunized at school-based clinics in the District. Eligibility had been limited to pregnant women and young people up to 24.

"We're just trying to make sure we can get the vaccine out to as many people as possible," said Dena Iverson, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Health Department.

At a clinic last week, health workers turned away some parents of children younger than 6 months.

Officials elsewhere in the Washington region have revised immunization plans in light of the nationwide shortage.

On Saturday in Fairfax, for example, only pregnant women and children younger than 3 were eligible to receive the vaccine, forcing some parents to take a piecemeal approach.

Some waited in line to have an infant vaccinated and will have to wait in line again to have themselves or their teenage children vaccinated.

On Tuesday, Fairfax immunized 1,250 people at a series of walk-in clinics, but health workers said they were forced to turn others away.

Fairfax has raised the age limit to 5 at the walk-in clinics and added parents of children younger than 6 months to the groups covered.

On Wednesday, Montgomery County is holding clinics at three public schools for people ages 2 to 24, but only the nasal spray form of the vaccine will be available. That means that children with significant underlying medical conditions will be excluded.

Fairfax has imposed a limit of 250 doses at each of five walk-in sites each day, and Montgomery put a cap of 1,000 doses at each of Wednesday's clinics.

District officials said the vaccines are expected to be shipped to pharmacies as early as next week but that the situation could change. Initial quantities would be limited.

For a list of vaccination times and places, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/metro/flu_shots.html .

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