Dakotas deal with H1N1 vaccine shortageThe uncertainty over weekly allotments of a limited supply of H1N1 vaccine has complicated efforts to organize immunization clinics and distribute it to hundreds of providers in North Dakota and South Dakota. Shipments from manufacturers are sent to states based on population. State health officials in South Dakota and North Dakota then allocate the vaccine under a formula meant to provide equitable distribution to local clinics and health care providers.
By: By Wayne Ortman, The Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun
The uncertainty over weekly allotments of a limited supply of H1N1 vaccine has complicated efforts to organize immunization clinics and distribute it to hundreds of providers in North Dakota and South Dakota.
Shipments from manufacturers are sent to states based on population. State health officials in South Dakota and North Dakota then allocate the vaccine under a formula meant to provide equitable distribution to local clinics and health care providers.
“It’s definitely coming in in small amounts each week,” said Molly Sander, immunization program manager in the North Dakota Health Department. “Early on in the process we were told we would get large boluses of vaccines and that definitely didn’t happen, and it is a little later than what we thought.”
The first shipments of vaccine in early October went to health care workers and a Tier 1 group considered most at risk such as pregnant women and young children. A month later, as distributed doses approached 80,000 in each state, the immunization effort began to broaden to a second tier including older children and child care providers.
The H1N1 flu has been most evident in the under-30 age group.
Doneen Hollings-worth, South Dakota’s secretary of health, said last week that some people who wanted the vaccine were still waiting.
“People have been very patient. I appreciate that, and I hope they see that we are being fair and consistent in how we’re doing this,” Hollingsworth said.
The amount of vaccine available is sometimes a last-minute discovery for clinics, which struggle with logistics as a result.
“It’s difficult for clinics to anticipate how much vaccine they will have on hand because they don’t know until it physically arrives. That does create challenges,” said Tim Wiedrich, head of emergency preparedness and response within the North Dakota Health Department.
In Fargo, N.D., the planning for a third immunization clinic was finalized just days before it opened.
“It’s not only not knowing how many doses we’ll have but which kind of doses — flu mist or injectable — because only certain people can take flu mist, and the same with injectable,” said Theresa Orecchia, public information officer for the Cass Fargo Health Department.
Hollingsworth said she expects greater demand for the vaccine as more immunization clinics are held and as the eligibility pool broadens.
“The messaging is tough because it changes all the time,” she said. “Last week we were saying it’s only for little kids, it’s only for health care workers, it’s only for pregnant women. Now this week we’re saying school kids and college-age kids.
“If we had more vaccine we wouldn’t have to do it that way, but I completely support how we’re doing it. We’re doing it based on science and risk.”
Sander estimates North Dakota will receive close to 350,000 doses of vaccine through January 2010, but that demand for immunizations could taper off if the flu loses steam.
Hollingsworth said there were signs H1N1 has reached a plateau in South Dakota, but that residents should continue to seek vaccinations because a second or third wave of infections was possible.
About 150 people in North Dakota who received a vaccine that had frozen during shipment or storage by a private carrier have been vaccinated a second time, the state Health Department said. The department has since taken control of shipments.
The South Dakota Department of Health uses a commercial delivery service.