National

H1N1 vaccine more plentiful

ATLANTA — After weeks of shortages, swine flu vaccine is plentiful enough that nearly half the states now say everyone can get it, not just people in high-risk groups.

But the good news comes with a challenge for health officials: how to keep persuading people to get vaccinated when swine flu infections are waning.

"We're worried that people might be thinking out of sight, out of mind," said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health authorities say that getting vaccinated could be a lifesaver if a new wave of illnesses materializes this winter.

The swine flu vaccine supply started with just a trickle from manufacturers in early October, leading doctors to reserve it for pregnant women, people with asthma, children and young adults, and others at high risk of becomingly severely ill.

But now 95 million doses are available, and 10 million more are coming out every week. Health officials in 24 states have lifted their recommended restrictions, as have communities in other states, said Paula Steib, spokeswoman for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

The vaccine is so abundant in some places that it is now being given out at drugstores, in addition to doctors' offices and clinics.

Some places are seeing pent-up demand. In Minnesota, a county health department clinic in suburban Minneapolis opened up early and gave out 150 shots in the first two hours on Wednesday — the first day vaccinations were available to everyone in that state.

Among those in line was Bill Haugen. He escaped swine flu when it swept through the collection agency where he works, and he was worried about its return. "I don't want to bring it home to my kids," said Haugen, 31, who has two young children.

Demand is also high in parts of the country that still have widespread reports of swine flu illness, including New York and parts of New England, health officials say.

But demand appears to be down in many areas where infections are dropping — and more and more states are falling into that category.

  Comments