First batch of swine flu vaccine on the way to Missouri

ST. LOUIS | The first batch of swine flu vaccine should arrive at Missouri hospitals, doctor's offices and county health departments next week, officials said.

But working through logistics and sorting is likely to delay health professionals from administering even the first shipments of vaccine until after Oct. 12, according to the state health department.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said the initial shipment of 34,100 doses will be a nasal spray form of the vaccine intended to prevent swine flu — what doctors prefer to call the 2009 H1N1 strain — in healthy people ages 2 to 49.

About 20 percent of the first batch will go to St. Louis County, the state's most populous, but every county in the state will receive an allotment.

An additional 70,000 doses are scheduled to arrive the following week, said health department spokesman Kit Wagar. About half will be the nasal spray, with the other half being shots suitable for anyone, including infants and pregnant women.

Another 200,000 shots and 78,000 nasal spray vaccines are scheduled to arrive by mid-October.

Wagar said state health departments were told the first vaccine doses were shipped Wednesday.

Federal officials say 600,000 doses of the nasal spray FluMist will be divided among 21 states and four large cities by early next week, with more small shipments to more states later in the week.

The federal government bought the nation's entire supply of H1N1 vaccine and is dividing doses as they arrive among states according to population. State health departments submit orders, and doses are shipped to the vaccination sites the states deemed able to quickly get shots into arms and squirts up noses — a mix of doctors' offices, hospitals, drugstores and public clinics.

In Missouri, the vaccine will be shipped directly to county health departments and hospitals, doctor's offices and other health providers the counties registered with the state.

The Missouri health department is not handling the vaccine, but is managing the flow, said Wagar, who notes counties have discretion to distribute the vaccine in a way that best serves their needs.

People's Health Centers in St. Louis said they don't expect their shipment of swine flu vaccine until the end of October, but will be ready to administer it immediately.

That sentiment was echoed by Jackson County Health Department Director Jim Kelly, who said, “as soon as they get it, they will distribute it.”

In Kansas City, the health department expects an initial 2,700 doses of nasal vaccine for distribution to hospitals with high-risk patients, and day care and WIC centers, said spokesman Jeff Hershberger.

St. Louis County's health department has been organizing distribution of its allotment to obstetrician-gynecologists, pediatricians, schools, colleges and universities and clinics, spokesman Craig LeFebvre said.

Most people will need two different inoculations, one against regular winter flu and the H1N1 vaccine. Plus, children under 10 will need two H1N1 doses.

People with asthma may get the swine flu vaccine as part of a research study at Washington University in St. Louis — one of seven national study sites. Study participants will be followed to see whether they develop immunity or have side effects.